Vladimir Putin is spouting “fairytale claims” when falsely alleging that Nato is preparing for an invasion of Russian land, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said.
The Russian president used a military parade in Moscow on Monday as an attempt to cast his invasion of Ukraine as a necessary response to Western policies.
But Mr Wallace accused Mr Putin and his “utterly complicit” generals of “hijacking” the memory of Russian troops repelling the Nazis in the Second World War.
Instead he said they are “inflicting needless suffering in the service of lowly gangsterism”.
In Moscow, Mr Putin claimed that his attack on Russia’s neighbour was necessary to ward off “an absolutely unacceptable threat just next to our borders”.
He reportedly added at the Victory Day celebrations that the West has been “preparing for the invasion of our land, including Crimea”.
But, asked by journalists after a speech at London’s National Army Museum in Chelsea, south-west London, Mr Wallace bluntly denied that Nato and Western allies have ever planned to attack Russia.
“President Putin has made a number of fairytale claims for months and years now,” the Cabinet minister said.
“If it wasn’t so tragic it would be amusing, but it isn’t.
“One of his claims is that he is surrounded. Nato accounts for 6% of his land border. That’s not being surrounded if only 6% of your land border is Nato countries.
“I think he is believing what he wants to believe – a slight shine of desperation. But let me put on the record categorically: Nato, Britain, Eastern Europe is not planning to invade Russia and never has done.”