Starmer signals Ukraine can use British Storm Shadow missiles to strike inside Russia

Sir Keir Starmer has signalled that Ukraine can use British Storm Shadow missiles to strike military targets inside Russia, a move that has angered Moscow.

Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, thanked the UK at the Nato summit in Washington for lifting the ban.

While the prime minister emphasised that the use of the missiles must comply with international humanitarian law, he said it is up to Ukraine to decide how to deploy them.

Storm Shadows are to be used for defensive purposes”, he said. “But it is for Ukraine to decide how to deploy it for those defensive purposes.”

Mr Zelensky wrote on X: “This morning, I learned about the permission to use Storm Shadow missiles against military targets in Russian territory. Today, we had the opportunity to discuss the practical implementation of this decision.”

The intervention by Mr Starmer is being seen as a hawkish shift from the UK’s previously ambiguous stance on the matter.

Storm Shadows – precision-guided cruise missiles with a firing range of over 250km (155 miles) – have been used by British and French air forces in the Gulf, Iraq and Libya.

The UK confirmed that it would supply Ukraine with Storm Shadows in May last year.

On Wednesday, defence secretary John Healey officially approved Kyiv’s use of Storm Shadow missiles for strikes inside Russia.

Mr Healey affirmed Britain’s commitment to helping Ukraine fight the Russian forces but did not discuss “operational arrangements”.

Reacting to the news, Dimitry Peskov, a spokesperson for Russian president Vladimir Putin, said: “If this is so then, of course, this is another absolutely irresponsible step towards escalating tensions and seriously escalating the situation.”

“We will be watching this very thoroughly and respond accordingly,” Mr Peskov told Reuters.

At the summit in Washington, meanwhile, Nato members said they will continue to support Ukraine “on its irreversible path to full Euro-Atlantic integration, including Nato membership”.

“Ukraine’s future is in Nato,” the alliance said in a statement.

Dan Jarvis, the new UK security minister, said the UK must be “incredibly careful” to avoid retaliation from the Kremlin.

Meanwhile France, Germany, Italy and Poland signed a letter of intent yesterday to develop ground-launched cruise missiles with a range beyond 500km (310 miles), aiming to fill what they say is a gap in European arsenals exposed by Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Nato summit in Washington after the signing ceremony, French defence minister Sebastien Lecornu said the new missile was meant to serve as a deterrent.