Nigel Farage, leader of Reform UK, criticized for saying West provoked Putin to invade Ukraine

Nigel Farage, leader of Reform UK, the recently formed right-wing party that is seeking to woo voters away from Britain's governing Conservatives at the general election on July 4, is facing wide-ranging criticism over his claim that the West provoked Putin to invade Ukraine.
Nigel Farage, leader of Reform UK
Nigel Farage, leader of Reform UK

London | Nigel Farage, leader of Reform UK, the recently formed right-wing party that is seeking to woo voters away from Britain's governing Conservatives at the general election on July 4, is facing wide-ranging criticism over his claim that the West provoked Russian President Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine.

In a BBC television interview broadcast Friday evening, Farage drew a link between the expansion of NATO and the European Union eastwards over the past few decades and the invasion.

Claiming that he warned of a potential war in Ukraine in 2014, when he was a member of the European Parliament, Farage said “we provoked this war.” It's unclear whether his warning came before or after Russia had annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in February 2014.

“It was obvious to me that the ever-eastward expansion of NATO and the European Union was giving this man a reason to his Russian people to say, 'They're coming for us again' and to go to war," Farage said. “It's, you know, of course it's his fault — he's used what we've done as an excuse.” Farage's critics from across the political spectrum slammed his statement, with many describing him as a Putin apologist.

“I think Nigel Farage is a bit like that pub bore we have all met at the end of the bar who often says if I was running the country' and presents very simplistic answers to actually, I am afraid in the 21st century, complex problems,” Ben Wallace, the former Conservative defense secretary who has stood down as a lawmaker, told BBC radio.

Many Conservatives have largely held back from overly criticizing Farage, who though not a lawmaker in the UK Parliament, was hugely influential in Britain's vote to leave the EU in 2016.

The worry among many Conservatives is that attacking him too much will further alienate many Conservative voters, who sympathize with his tough rhetoric on issues like immigration and Brexit.

This is the first general election that Reform UK is contesting and it has enjoyed a lift in the polls after Farage said in early June he would lead the party and contest the seat in Clacton in southeast England. He is currently favorite to win that seat and finally enter Parliament after seven attempts.

Meanwhile, John Healey, who is set to become defense secretary if the left-of-center Labour Party wins the election on July, said Farage would “rather lick Vladimir Putin's boots than stand up for the people of Ukraine.”

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