Ron DeSantis has undertaken a major U-turn on remarks he made concerning the war in Ukraine.

The Florida governor and probable Donald Trump rival in the Republican 2024 primary race has faced fierce criticism for calling the war a “territorial dispute” in an interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson last week.

DeSantis’ scepticism towards US support for Ukraine put him in the same camp as Trump, but has divided the Republican base.  

Now DeSantis has backtracked, calling Putin a “war criminal” who is “basically a gas station with a bunch of nuclear weapons.”

Asked by Piers Morgan on Piers Morgan Uncensored about his “territorial dispute” comment, DeSantis said:

“Well, I think it’s been mischaracterised. Obviously, Russia invaded [last year] — that was wrong. They invaded Crimea and took that in 2014 — That was wrong.

“What I’m referring to is where the fighting is going on now which is that eastern border region, Donbas, and then Crimea, and you have a situation where Russia has had that. I don’t think legitimately but they had. There’s a lot of ethnic Russians there. So, that’s some difficult fighting and that’s what I was referring to and so it wasn’t that I thought Russia had a right to that, and so if I should have made that more clear, I could have done it, but I think the larger point is, okay, Russia is not showing the ability to take over Ukraine, to topple the government or certainly to threaten NATO. That’s a good thing. I just don’t think that’s a sufficient interest for us to escalate more involvement. I would not want to see American troops involved there. But the idea that I think somehow Russia was justified [in invading] — that’s nonsense.”

“I think they have the right to that territory. If I could snap my fingers, I’d give it back to Ukraine 100%. But the reality is what is America’s involvement in terms of escalating with more weapons, and certainly ground troops I think would be a mistake. So, that was the point I was trying to make but Russia was wrong to invade. They were wrong to take Crimea.

“Russia did not have the right to go into Crimea or to go in February of 2022 and that should be clear.”

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