THE deputy leader of the UK Independence Party faced calls for a public apology yesterday after suggesting Britain in Europe was similar to Chechnya under Russian rule.
Michael Nattrass, West Midlands MEP, stunned a Cardiff audience by saying Britons, like Chechen rebels, might have to fight their way out of Europe.
His comments come just weeks after hundreds of children were killed and hundreds more injured after Chechen rebels lay siege to a school in Beslan, southern Russia.
Mr Nattrass made his comments during an Institute of Citizenship Conference in Cardiff, held to debate the European Constitution.
He said, "In the same way as Chechnya is forced to be a part of Russia, we are forced to be a part of Europe. I hope we won't have to fight our way like them but I suspect we will have to fight our way out."
Among the audience was Rhondda MP Chris Bryant, of the Labour branch of the pro-EU Britain in Europe group.
Mr Bryant said the comments were at best nonsense and at worst offensive to the victims of Beslan.
He said, "If Mr Nattrass cannot see how offensive this is after what happened in Beslan, then he has no right to be a politician.
"Sadly I fear that the debate over Europe is likely to be polluted by just this type of nonsense. He should apologise immediately."
Mr Nattrass was unavailable for comment last night.
But a UKIP spokesman said, "We have long said that any situation where a country is forced to belong to a group against the will of its people there is a potential for violence as people try to get control of their nation back.
"UKIP is and remains committed to a democratic solution to bring about our withdrawal from the European Union."