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Grant Shapps forced to cancel Ukraine port trip due to threat of Russian missile attack

Grant Shapps visited Ukraine earlier this month  (PA)
Grant Shapps visited Ukraine earlier this month (PA)

UK defence minister Grant Shapps was forced to abandon a trip to the Ukrainian port city of Odesa after Russia became aware of his whereabouts, it has been reported.

It comes just days after it was revealed that an RAF jet transporting Mr Shapps back to England from Poland earlier this week had its GPS signal jammed while flying over the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.

Mr Shapps, accompanied by UK army chief Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, was preparing to visit Odesa earlier this month during a three-day visit to Ukraine.

Footage published by Mr Shapps showed him in the capital of Kyiv on 8 March.

“I’m in Kyiv to raise the alarm to the democratic world – we must make sure Ukraine wins this war,” he wrote on Twitter/X at the time.

“The UK has stepped up to do more than ever, with our largest military support package to date. Every nation must now do the same and ensure freedom triumphs over tyranny.”

The pair held meetings with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and army chief Oleksandr Syrsky, before preparing for a 290-mile trip south to the port city of Odesa on the Black Sea.

But just moments before the delegation was due to leave, the trip was cancelled. A report from The Sunday Times said it was because the Russians had “become aware of the plans”.

They reported that British intelligence said there was a credible threat that Mr Shapps could be targeted in a Russian missile strike.

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: “On a recent trip to Ukraine, the defence secretary did not make a planned visit to Odesa for security reasons.

“The UK continues to provide strong support for Ukraine and the defence secretary’s visit and engagements only underscored the importance of this support in the face of Putin’s aggression.”

The security risk had already been raised to critical after a Russian missile landed just 500 metres from Mr Zelensky during his trip to Odesa earlier that week, where he was visiting with Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Though neither leader was injured, the Ukrainian military said five people were killed in the strike.

Emergency service workers tend to an injured man in the Ukrainian port city of Odesa on Friday (Telegram)
Emergency service workers tend to an injured man in the Ukrainian port city of Odesa on Friday (Telegram)

“We saw this strike today”, Mr Zelensky said at the time, from Odesa. “You can see who we are dealing with, they don’t care where they strike.

“I know that there were victims today, I don’t know all the details yet, but I know that there are dead and wounded.”

Russia has in recent weeks stepped up its strikes on the southern city, which is a vital hub for Ukrainian grain exports.

At least 20 people were killed and more than 70 wounded in an attack on Friday after Russia fired back-to-back Iskander-M missiles at Odesa. The authorities said it was the deadliest attack in the city’s recent history.

Among the dead and wounded were emergency service personnel who had rushed to the scene of the first explosion, only to be hit by a second missile strike. This form of attack is known as a “double tap” strike.

On 2 March, a Russian drone struck a multistorey building in the area, killing 12 people, including five children.