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UK gives Ukraine anti-tank weapons as Canada sends special forces | Military news

The United Kingdom has begun supplying Ukraine with anti-tank weapons, and Canada has reportedly sent a small contingent of special forces to Kiev due to concerns about a possible invasion of Russia.

The development came when Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov angrily rejected claims by the United States last week that Moscow was preparing a pretext to invade Ukraine if diplomacy could not achieve its goals.

While Moscow - which has deployed 100,000 troops near its border with Ukraine - rejects plans for an attack on Ukraine, it has said it could take unspecified military action unless the West accepts a list of demands, including banning Kiev from ever become a member of NATO.

Russia sees NATO's expansion to the east as an existential threat.

But Washington and its allies have certainly rejected Moscow's demands and the Russia-US negotiations in Geneva and a related NATO-Russia meeting in Brussels ended last week without a breakthrough.

Kyiv has since asked Western countries for weapons to help them protect themselves.

In a speech to the British Parliament on Monday, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said Britain had "made the decision to supply Ukraine with light anti-tank defense systems".

The first weapon was delivered on Monday and a small number of British staff would provide training for a short period, he said, without specifying the number and type of weapons sent.

But he added: "They are not strategic weapons and do not pose a threat to Russia. They must be used in self-defense.

"These are short-range ... but nonetheless, it would make people stop and think about what they were doing, and if tanks were to roll into Ukraine, invade it, then they would be part of the defense mechanism."

In a separate article published on Monday, Wallace also addressed Russian allegations of threats from NATO, saying the Western security alliance is "at its core, defensive".

"Former Soviet states have not been enlarged" to "by NATO, but joined at their own request," he wrote. "The Kremlin is trying to present NATO as a Western conspiracy to invade its territory, but in reality, the growth of Alliance membership is the natural response of these states to their own malicious activities and threats."

In Kiev, Ukraine's Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov welcomed Britain's support, saying in a Twitter post that his country "greatly appreciates Britain's decision to deliver a new security package with lightweight, anti-tank, defensive weapon systems!"

Ukrainian officials have warned that Russia could launch an attack on their country from various directions, including from the territory of its ally Belarus. Russian and Belarusian troops plan to hold major military exercises next month, including near Belarus' border with Ukraine.

Belarus's Security Council secretary Alexander Volfovich said on Monday that Russian troops had begun arriving in the country for the exercise, according to the BELTA news agency.

In addition to refusing to have plans to attack its neighbor, Russia has instead accused the Ukrainian leadership of hatching plans to use force to regain control of the Russian-backed rebel-held areas of eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian authorities have rejected the claim.

Separately in Canada, Global News reported that Ottawa had sent special forces to Ukraine.

Referring to unspecified sources, the television station said the unit would identify ways to assist the Ukrainian government and help develop evacuation plans for Canadian diplomatic personnel in the event of a full-scale invasion.

A spokesman for the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command said it could not confirm the report, but said it had supported the Ukrainian security forces on a regular basis to provide training and "instructor and leadership expertise" since 2020.

The report came as Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly met with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmygal in Kiev on Monday during a visit aimed at discussing efforts to deter "aggressive action" on Russia's part.

Russia took control of Crimea in 2014.

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