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The West must send Ukraine more missiles to stop “crocodile” Vladimir Putin slowly “chewing through” Ukraine, Boris Johnson warned today.

The UK Prime Minister said it was “vital” to keep giving the battle-hardened nation support – including Multiple Launch Rocket Systems – as Russian forces make “gradual, slow but I’m afraid palpable progress”.

By the end of April the UK had provided more than 5,000 anti tank missiles, five air defence systems with more than 100 missiles, 1,360 anti-structural munitions, and 4.5 tonnes of plastic explosives.

Britain had also sent more than 90,000 ration packs, 10 pallets of medical equipment, 3,000 pieces of body armour, 77,000 helmets and 3,000 pairs of boots.

But there is an international debate over how far to arm Ukraine with defensive or offensive weapons.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Mr Johnson said: “I think it’s very, very important that we do not get lulled because of the incredible heroism of the Ukrainians in pushing the Russians back from the gates of Kyiv.

Ruins of a grain silo in the town of Sivers’k, Donbas ( Alex Chan/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock)

“I’m afraid that Putin at great cost to himself and Russian military is continuing to chew through ground in Donbas, he’s continuing to make gradual, slow but I’m afraid palpable progress.

“And therefore it is absolutely vital that we continue to support the Ukrainians militarily.”

Explaining how Putin was “not to be trusted”, the Prime Minister added: “How can you deal with a crocodile when it’s in the middle of eating your left leg?”

The war and Western sanctions have fuelled rocketing inflation, which hit 9% in the UK in April.

Asked by Bloomberg if the UK was heading for a recession, Boris Johnson replied: “Not necessarily at all.”

Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba this week urged allies, particularly the US, to provide MLRSs.

“Every day of someone sitting in Washington, Berlin, Paris and other capitals, and considering whether they should or should not do something, costs us lives and territories,” Mr Kuleba said.

The UK has M270 MLRSs but it was unclear from the interview whether Mr Johnson wanted to send the weapons from British stocks or was urging allies to send supplies.

But he said the weapons “would enable them to defend themselves against this very brutal Russian artillery, and that’s where the world needs to go down”.

Reports in the US suggest President Joe Biden’s administration is preparing to send MLRSs to Ukraine.

Earlier this month the governor of the Bank of England gave an “apocalyptic” warning that food supplies could tighten and prices soar.

Asked by Bloomberg if the UK was heading for a recession, Boris Johnson replied: “Not necessarily at all” ( via REUTERS)

Speaking to the Commons Treasury Committee, Andrew Bailey said: “I’m afraid the one I’m going to sound, I guess, rather apocalyptic about, is food.

“So I was in Washington at the IMF World Bank Spring meeting… we had the Ukrainian finance minister there… I have to tell you I think this is a big concern.

“Because I think two things the finance minister said – one is Ukraine does have food in store but it can’t get it out at the moment.

“Two, while he was optimistic about crop planting, as you know Ukraine is a major supplier of wheat and… cooking oils… we have no way of shipping it out as things stand and it is getting worse.

“That is a major worry – and it’s not just I have to tell you a major worry for this country, it is a major worry for the developing world as well.

“Sorry for being apocalyptic for the moment, but that’s a major concern.”

The Russian president’s invading troops have recently captured “several villages” as they attempt to surround Severodonetsk and Lysychansk in the Donbas region, according to the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

But it said President Volodymyr Zelensky’s defending forces are holding “multiple defended sectors” as Russia deploys 50-year-old Soviet-era T-62 tanks.

These, the intelligence update said, “will almost certainly be particularly vulnerable” to anti-tank weapons and shows Russia’s lack of “modern, combat-ready equipment”.

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