UK planes took a long detour around Germany to deliver weapons to Ukraine in case Russia invades

·3 min read
An RAF C-17 plane seen at RAF Brize Norton air base in the UK on August 29, 2021.
An RAF C-17 plane seen at RAF Brize Norton air base, England, in August.UK MOD via Reuters
  • The UK sent Ukraine anti-tank weapons for self-defense in case Russia invades, MP Ben Wallace said.

  • Royal Air Force planes carrying the weapons flew around German airspace to get there, data showed.

  • Germany had declined to send military support to Ukraine and blocked NATO shipments to Kyiv.

British Royal Air Force planes flew around German airspace when they delivered anti-tank weaponry to Ukraine on Monday, flight-tracking data from FlightRadar24 showed.

In recent weeks, Ukraine has called on the likes of the US, UK, and Germany to provide military aid to help counter the buildup of Russian troops at its border. Ukraine and the US have long warned of an imminent Russian invasion.

Ben Wallace, the UK defense minister, told Parliament on Monday that Britain was sending "light, anti-armor, defensive weapon systems" to Ukraine to use only in self-defense in case of a Russian invasion.

The weapons were transported on RAF C-17 planes that flew to Ukraine by an unusually long route: through Danish instead of German airspace, as can be seen below.

An image from Flightradar24 showing the flight path of the C-17 that flew to Ukraine on January 17, 2022.
An image from Flightradar24 showing the flight path of the C-17 that flew to Ukraine on January 17.Flightradar24

The choice of route is notable given that Germany declined to send arms to Ukraine in December.

Germany has also blocked Ukraine from receiving NATO shipments of rifles and anti-drone weaponry sourced from the US and Lithuania in recent months, the Ukrainian news outlet ZN reported.

The Daily Mail reported that Germany denied the C-17s permission to use its airspace.

But a spokesperson for the UK Ministry of Defence told Insider: "Germany has not denied access to its airspace as the UK did not submit a request. There has been no dispute between the UK and Germany on this issue."

And a spokesperson for the German defense ministry told Bild, "There had been no application from the British for the flights."

The C-17s were therefore "not prohibited" from using German airspace, the spokesperson said, Bild reported.

The planes also avoided German airspace on their return flights to RAF Brize Norton, FlightRadar24 data showed.

Elements of the 41st Combined Arms Army, including hundreds of tanks, self-propelled artillery and other military equipment (including an Iskander mobile short range ballistic missile (SRBM) unit) are deployed in a training area located approximately 160 miles north of the Russia–Ukraine border. Photo taken on Nov. 9, 2021.
A photo taken on November 9 that shows elements of the 41st Combined Arms Army, including hundreds of tanks, self-propelled artillery, and other military equipment deployed in a training area located approximately 160 miles north of the Russia–Ukraine border.Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies.

The UK also sent a small number of troops to Ukraine on Monday to help with "early-stage training for a short period of time," Wallace told Parliament. A number of British troops have been stationed in Ukraine since 2015.

But Wallace said in December that the UK would not send troops to Ukraine if Russia invaded.

President Joe Biden ruled out sending US troops to Ukraine in December, but warned Russia that it would face harsh sanctions should it invade Ukraine.

The US sent a consignment of military aid, including small arms and ammunition, to Ukraine in December, CNN reported. Four countermortar radars were scheduled to be sent from the US to Ukraine in 2022, CNN said.

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