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Saturday July 20, 2024

Outrage over Farage’s pro Russia remarks

By AFP
June 23, 2024
Nigel Farage, leader of Reform UK, speaks during a press conference in London, Britain, June 3, 2024. — Reuters
Nigel Farage, leader of Reform UK, speaks during a press conference in London, Britain, June 3, 2024. — Reuters

LONDON: Nigel Farage, leader of Britain’s anti-immigration Reform UK party, faced strong criticism Saturday after saying that the West provoked Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In an interview with the BBC on Friday, Farage said “we’ve provoked this war”, while adding that “of course” it was Russian president Vladimir Putin’s “fault”. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told reporters that Farage’s claim was “completely wrong and only plays into Putin’s hands”, likening the comments to “appeasement”.

Labour leader Keir Starmer, who looks set to take Sunak’s job after an election next month, said Farage’s comments were “disgraceful”. “Anyone who is standing for parliament ought to be really clear that Russia is the aggressor”, he told reporters on the campaign trail. Farage -- a former European Union parliamentarian who has tried and failed to run for the UK parliament seven times -- is seeking a seat from Clacton in east England in a general election next month.

His party is polling third behind the ruling Conservatives and opposition Labour parties, and is predicted to pick up a few seats. A surge of popularity for Reform UK since Farage took over as leader this month risks drawing away votes that the Conservatives sorely need to win a fifth term in power.

Farage’s comments met with outrage across political parties on Saturday.

Interior minister James Cleverly criticised Farage for “echoing Putin’s vile justification for the brutal invasion of Ukraine.”

Former Conservative defence minister Tobias Ellwood called the comments “shocking” in the Daily Telegraph newspaper, adding that British wartime leader Winston Churchill “will be turning in his grave”.

Labour’s defence spokesman John Healey called the comments “disgraceful” and said his stance made him “unfit for any political office in our country”.

The opposition Liberal Democrat party leader Ed Davey adding that he did not “share any values” with Farage.