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Former RAF commander challenges western opposition to Ukraine no-fly zone

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he Royal Air Force’s former commander of operations has challenged Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s opposition to a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

Former Air Marshal Greg Bagwell began his career as a fast jet pilot, and was the RAF’s Deputy Commander Operations from 2013 until 2016.

Speaking exclusively to the PA news agency, Air Marshal Bagwell criticised western leaders for taking a no-fly zone “off the table”.

“I completely recognise all the limitations, all the risks, all the potential pitfalls of any action, let alone a no-fly zone. But why take it off the table? It just makes the job of the bad guy easier,” he said.

Air Marshal Bagwell also said that the imposition of a no-fly zone could be done under the auspices of the United Nations, rather than Nato.

Air Marshal Greg Bagwell was the RAF’s Deputy Commander Operations from 2013 until 2016 (Chris Ison/PA) / PA Archive

“I was disappointed to see that everybody immediately turned this into a Nato versus Russia,” he said.

“Most no-fly zones I’m aware of, and I’ve flown on, have been under UNSC (United Nations Security Council) mandates or resolutions.”

He added: “The reason why I think it has got to be UN is I think it needs that universal mandate…this is not a binary fight between him (Russian President Vladimir Putin) and Nato. This is him versus the world.”

Mr Johnson has previously ruled out allies enforcing a no-fly zone over Ukraine, warning that “the UK would be engaged in shooting down Russian planes…that’s not something we can do”.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has also rejected the calls, saying such a move would lead to an escalation of the conflict and the triggering of Nato’s Article Five, and that it would also have to apply to Ukrainian jets.

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