The Sky News presenter challenged the Foreign Secretary on whether the world should prepare for Vladimir Putin to use nuclear weapons in a desperate attempt to clinch victory in Ukraine. Ben Wallace travelled to Washington this week sparking concern of potential escalation after Armed Forces Minister James Heappey suggested allies were holding conversations “beyond belief.” Kay Burley asked James Cleverly for clarifications about the meeting, questioning whether discussions were being held to prepare for a nuclear strike.
After Mr Cleverly insisted Mr Wallace had gone to the United States on a routine visit, Ms Burley said: “Are you brushing aside my question about nuclear concerns?”
The Foreign Secretary replied: “What we do is discuss a full range of how we help the Ukrainians help themselves.
“I’m not at the meeting, I’m here rather than in the States so I’m not going to guess or speculate as to exactly the things that are discussed.”
Ms Burley intervened: “I’m sure you talk to Ben Wallace all the time. On what end was nuclear concern brought up?”
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Mr Cleverly explained: “Of course, I do. Kay, I know that’s an exciting headline.”
The Sky News presenter cut him off: “I think it’s a very concerning headline.”
He said: “I know, I get that. But the point I’m making is we talk about a range of issues every time we speak.
“What we’re seeing in Ukraine is brutality on a scale that we’re not used to in Europe. We’re seeing Putin putting on these vicious attacks on civilian structures so of course, we want to discuss how we help the Ukrainians, and what happens in the future. What I don’t want you to do is focus on one element to what would be a normal discussion.”
Ms Burley said: “I got a message from one of your colleagues last night who said he went because ‘the madman’s got nukes.’ That’s how he put it.”
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Chuckling at the notion, Mr Cleverly said: “Well, look, as I said we would inevitably discuss a full range of stuff but, ultimately, this is a normal part of how close friends like the UK and the US work to support a very good friend like Ukraine.”
Mr Wallace’s visit to the White House and the Pentagon has fuelled concerns about Russia mounting a nuclear attack after weeks of troops being pushed back by Ukraine’s counter-offensive efforts.
US Pentagon Press Secretary Brigadier General Patrick Ryder said: “He’s here today to discuss the Ukraine situation and the US and UK joint efforts to support Ukraine, as well as to, again, reaffirm the transatlantic ties and co-operation that our two countries share when it comes to issues like Russia.”
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Mr Wallace’s Washington visit comes as the new commander of Russian forces in Ukraine acknowledged the pressures troops were under from Ukrainian offensives to retake southern and eastern areas.
The Kremlin-installed chief of the strategic southern region of Kherson announced an “organised, gradual displacement” of civilians from four towns on the Dnipro River.
Russian Air Force General Sergei Surovikin told the state-owned Rossiya 24 news channel: “The situation in the area of the ‘Special Military Operation’ can be described as tense.
On Kherson, Surovikin said: “The situation in this area is difficult. The enemy is deliberately striking infrastructure and residential buildings in Kherson.”
Moscow’s forces in Kherson have been driven back by 20-30 km in recent weeks and are at risk of being pinned against the western bank of the 2,200-kilometre-long Dnipro river that bisects Ukraine.