LONDON (Reuters) -British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday he did not expect any further Russian military failures in Ukraine to push President Vladimir Putin into using tactical nuclear weapons there, saying he had room to manoeuvre and end the conflict.
Asked by Talk TV if he expected Putin to consider using tactical nuclear weapons if he suffered more military failures in Ukraine, he said: “No, I don’t.”
“Given the massive Russian backing for what he is doing, given the apparent obliviousness of the Russian media about what is really happening in Ukraine, the paradox is that Putin has far more political space to back down, to withdraw,” he said.
Johnson was also asked about a spat between Moscow and London, after Russia warned Britain on Tuesday of an immediate “proportional response” if Britain continued to provoke Ukraine into striking targets in Russia.
Russia’s defence ministry cited statements from Britain’s armed forces minister James Heappey who told BBC radio that it was entirely legitimate for Ukraine to hunt targets in the depths of Russia to disrupt logistics and supply lines.
Asked about the row, Johnson said Ukrainians had a right to protect themselves, but added that Britain did not want the crisis to escalate beyond Ukraine’s borders.
He also said his government would do whatever it could to help two British fighters captured in Ukraine, but that any prisoner swap would be a decision for Kyiv. He added that Facebook had agreed to take down a video that showed the fighters.
(Reporting by Kate HoltonEditing by Chris Reese, Bernard Orr)