RUSSIA may never have invaded Ukraine if Britain had not left the EU, the European Parliament's former Brexit coordinator has said.

Guy Verhofstadt, a senior MEP and former Belgian prime minister, told LBC on Tuesday that if Europe had been stronger and more united then Vladimir Putin may not have been emboldened enough to launch the military invasion.

Verhofstadt, also a former candidate for president of the European Commission, said: "This war, this brutal invasion, has started with Putin and Russia.

“It has nothing to do with the extension of Nato, or the European Union, it's really an attempt by Putin to restore the old Soviet Union. The only difference is the Communist party is replaced by his cronies.

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"A united Europe, certainly on defence matters, would make an enormous difference. I think maybe without Brexit there would be no invasion. I don't know, but I think he would see a far stronger and united Europe on the other side."

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The Belgian politician (above) said that Putin would not start a nuclear war, but warned that if Russia was victorious in Ukraine then it would be the start of World War Three.

He said: “If he is winning this war in Ukraine it will be the beginning of World War Three like some people are saying.

"The next attack will be against the Baltic states, it could be against Poland, could be against another central or Eastern European country. We have to avoid it. The best way to avoid World War 3 is Ukraine wins this battle in 2023.”

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Last year, Verhofstadt was among the voices who condemned then prime minister Boris Johnson for comparing Brexit to Ukrainians' fight for freedom from Russia.

Johnson sparked outrage after using a speech to the Tory spring conference in Blackpool to say that the “instinct of the people of this country, like the people of Ukraine, [is] to choose freedom”, with the Brexit vote a “famous recent example”.

Verhofstadt called the comparison "insane", while former European Council president Donald Tusk said Johnson's words “offend Ukrainians, the British and common sense”.