UKRAINE’S ambassador to Britain has been warned he could face the sack after backing Ben Wallace in a spat with Zelensky over “Amazon” weapons deliveries.
Ambassador Vadym Prystaiko accused Ukraine’s President Zelensky of “unhealthy sarcasm” after he mocked Defence Secretary Wallace at a NATO summit last week.
Wallace had urged Ukraine to show gratitude and not to treat Britain and allies like an Amazon weapons delivery service.
But Zelensky, a former stand-up comedian, ridiculed Wallace by quipping: “We can wake up in the morning and thank the minister.
“Let him write to me and tell me how to thank him.”
Ambassador Prystaiko, a former Ukrainian foreign minister said: “I don’t believe this sarcasm is healthy.”
Wallace was one of Ukraine’s biggest cheerleaders and led way among allies with donations NLAW, Brimstone and Storm Shadow missiles, GMLRS and Starstreak rocket launchers and Challenger 2 tanks.
He echoed US concerns at two-day summit in Vilnius when he said: “Whether we like it or not, people want to see gratitude”.
He added: “You know, we’re not Amazon. I told them that last year, when I drove 11 hours to be given a list.”
His comments came after debates within Nato over whether or not to give Ukraine Leopard 2 tanks and F-16 jets.
In the case of the tanks, Germany was the one to falter amid fears of contributing to military escalation, while the US initially resisted cries to send jets as domestic opposition grumbled.
While both nations eventually relented, the supply of arms to Ukraine has been a hot topic of discussion within the alliance and Wallace’s comments seemed to reflect some frustrations over the level of military support it provides.
Zelensky responded with a theatrical flourish by calling out to his Defence Minister, Oleksii Reznikov, and asking: “Oleksii, you are here. Do you have bad relations with the defence minister?”
Reznikov replied: “Amazing!”
Zekensky switched to English and said: “That’s great. You have to call him. Please.”
However, asked about the exchange the next day Prystaiko said it showed cracks between allies.
He told Sky News: “We don’t have to show the Russians that we have something between us.
“They have to know we are working together.”
His comments sparked fury in Kyiv after they were widely picked up on Russian TV as proof of top level splits.
Senior officials called Prystaiko and delivered a series of angry dressing-downs.
A source said: “He has been told he could be recalled, but it hasn’t been decided yet.”
Prystaiko is well-liked across Whitehall for managing Kyiv’s demands “diplomatically”.
But a UK source said: “Kyiv won’t accept any criticism of Zelensky.”
The ambassador was last seen on Wimbledon’s Centre Court last week.
He and his wife Inna watched Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina.
But they left the Royal Box before Belarussian player Aryna Sabalenka came on, in protest at Belarus’ support for Putin’s bloodbath in Ukraine.
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan had earlier said that the American people “deserve a degree of gratitude”.
He added: “The United States of America has stepped up to provide an enormous amount of capacity to help ensure that Ukraine’s brave soldiers have the ammunition, air defence, the infantry, fighting vehicles, the mine-clearing equipment.”
For his part, PM Rishi Sunak distanced himself from Wallace’s comments, saying: “I know President Zelensky has repeatedly expressed his gratitude…he continues to be grateful for our support and our leadership.”
A Government source said Prystaiko’s fate was “a matter for Ukraine”.
Meanwhile, Wallace announced that he will leave government and the next cabinet reshuffle and will not stand at the upcoming general election, citing the toll a career in politics has taken on his family.
He also tweeted a lengthy statement addressing the backlash against his comments on Ukraine, saying they had been “misrepresented”.
It comes after he was reportedly blocked from the job of Nato secretary-general by US President Biden.
The Sun exclusively revealed that the White House rejected plans for Wallace to take the top job.
Instead, while US officials remained coy on the subject, they seemed to favour incumbent secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg extending his term for a record ninth year, which was confirmed in Vilnius.