UK: Nigel Farage faces backlash over his 'West provoking Putin to invade Ukraine' remark

PM Rishi Sunak termed the remark as “completely wrong”

Nigel Farage Russia-Ukraine remark Britain's Reform UK Party Leader Nigel Farage attends an interview with Nick Robinson in London | Reuters

The leader of Britain's right-wing Reform UK party, Nigel Farage's controversial remarks on the Russia-Ukraine war have stoked a row. Farage said that the eastward expansion of the European Union and NATO had provoked Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine. He had blamed the West for the “unnecessary” provocation.

The remarks made in the wake of the UK elections, during an interview with BBC on Friday, drew staunch criticism from leaders including PM Rishi Sunak. 

Sunak has said Farage was "completely wrong" to say the West "provoked" Russia's invasion of Ukraine. While talking to the reporters, Sunak said his remarks "only plays into Putin's hands". 

"This is a man who deployed nerve agents on the streets of Britain, who’s doing deals with countries like North Korea. And this kind of appeasement is dangerous for Britain’s security, the security of our allies that rely on us and only emboldens Putin further," he said. 

Amid the outrage, Farage said that he stood by his comments and posted on social media that the move was a "consequence of EU and NATO expansion". 

Farage later posted on X: "Putin was wrong to invade a sovereign nation, and the EU was wrong to expand eastward. The sooner we realise this, the closer we will be to ending the war and delivering peace," Farage posted on X.

"We provoked this war... of course, it's his (Putin's) fault - he's used what we've done as an excuse," Farage said in the interview. 

“I stood up in the European parliament in 2014 and I said: ‘There will be a war in Ukraine.’ Why did I say that? It was obvious to me that the ever-eastward expansion of NATO and the EU was giving this man a reason … to say: ‘They’re coming for us again,’ and to go to war," he said. 

UK elections are due to be held on July 4. Though Reform is unlikely to win many seats in parliament, it could definitely split the right-of-centre vote across the country impacting Sunak’s Conservative party.

Former UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Home Secretary James Cleverly also hit out against Farage over his comments. 

"Nigel has been clear that he wants to destroy our party...He excuses Putin's illegal war in Ukraine...He is more focused on inflammatory rhetoric than delivering for working people. We can't concede to his style of politics, nor allow him in our party," said Cleverly.

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