Britain will not have a role in the firing of long-range missiles it is considering sending to Ukraine to boost the country’s arsenal, according to defence sources.
Rishi Sunak this week held talks with Ukrainian President Voldymyr Zelensky about the UK’s ability to provide long-range missiles to Kyiv, which it currently doesn’t have.
The Prime Minister said these were ‘going to make a big difference’ in Ukraine’s fightback against Russia’s invasion.
Discussions are now said to be taking place over whether they should include Harpoon or Storm Shadow missiles.
It has also been claimed that Ukraine could use such weaponry to strike Russian-occupied Crimea, which would potentially be a major escalation in the conflict.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed a right to Crimea since his annexation of the peninsula in 2014.
Fears have also been raised about Britain being dragged into a more hands-on role in the Ukraine war through the supply of its long-range missiles.
This follows reports that the US plays an active role in the use of the advanced rocket systems it supplies to Kyiv, with the vast majority of Ukrainian strikes having their coordinates provided or confirmed by American military personnel.
But, according to British defence sources, the UK-supplied missiles that are being talked about would not require any coordinate input from Britain.
Downing Street this week acknowledged the Government has an eye on the potential risk of escalation as it considers boosting its military supplies to Ukraine, including fighter jets.
But No10 stressed that it is ‘Russia that continues to take escalatory action with their bombardment of civilians and continue their illegal war’.
It came after Mr Putin already threatened a ‘response’ involving ‘military-political consequences’ if the UK sends planes to Ukraine.
Ex-PM Boris Johnson has been among those putting pressure on Mr Sunak to do more to assist Ukraine, including through the supply of long-range missiles and RAF Typhoon fighter jets.
The Storm Shadow, also known as SCALP, is an air-to-ground missile that can hit fixed or stationary targets.
Length: 16ft 9in
Range: 350 miles
The Harpoon is an anti-ship surface-to-surface missile that can strike ships at ranges of up to 80 miles away.
Range: 150 miles
According to the Washington Post, Ukrainian officials said they require coordinates provided or confirmed by the US and its allies for the vast majority of strikes using advanced American-supplied rocket systems, such as HIMARS.
One senior Ukrainian official told the newspaper said the country’s forces almost never launch the advanced weapons without specific coordinates provided by US military personnel from a base elsewhere in Europe.
A US official was said to have acknowledged that Ukraine received assistance with targeting to ensure accuracy and conserve limited ammnition for maximum effectiveness.
Talks are reportedly taking place over whether Britain should further boost Ukraine’s weaponry with Harpoon anti-ship missiles or air-to-ground Storm Shadows.
The Times said Ukrainian defence sources had confirmed Kyiv would be prepared to use such missiles to strike Crimea.
Harpoon missiles are estimated to cost about £1.2million each, while Storm Shadows cost about £2.2million.
In his speech to Parliament this week, Mr Zelensky noted how the supply of long-range missiles to Ukraine – in the latest development of Western support for Kyiv – would ‘allow us to make the evil completely retreat from our country by destroying its heavyweights, deep in the occupied territories’.
In October, the Kremlin blamed Ukraine for the damage to a key bridge linking Crimea to Russia.