British PM visits Ukraine

Rishi Sunak has pledged £50m in defence aid to Ukraine as he met President Volodymyr Zelensky in his first visit to Kyiv since becoming prime minister.

Sunak said it was “deeply humbling” to be in Kyiv and that the UK would continue to stand by Ukraine.

“Since the first days of the war, Ukraine and the UK have been the strongest of allies,” Zelensky said following the meeting.

The aid package is intended to counter Russian aerial attacks.

The £50m defence aid comprises 125 anti-aircraft guns and technology to counter deadly Iranian-supplied drones, including dozens of radars and anti-drone electronic warfare capability.

Sunak also announced the UK will increase the training offer to Ukraine’s armed forces, sending expert army medics and engineers to the region to offer specialised support.

It follows more than 1 000 new anti-air missiles announced by the UK’s Defence Secretary Ben Wallace earlier this month.

On his visit the prime minister saw captured Iranian-made drones which have been used to target and bomb Ukrainian civilians in recent months.

Sunak also laid flowers for the war dead and lit a candle at a memorial for victims of the 1930s Holodomor famine, before meeting emergency workers at a fire station.

The prime minister said: “I am proud of how the UK stood with Ukraine from the very beginning. And I am here today to say the UK and our allies will continue to stand with Ukraine, as it fights to end this barbarous war and deliver a just peace.

“While Ukraine’s armed forces succeed in pushing back Russian forces on the ground, civilians are being brutally bombarded from the air. We are today providing new air defence, including anti-aircraft guns, radar and anti-drone equipment, and stepping up humanitarian support for the cold, hard winter ahead.

He added that it was “deeply humbling” to be in the Ukrainian capital and have the opportunity to meet people “paying so high a price, to defend the principles of sovereignty and democracy”.

Sunak’s pledge to send more air defence support is exactly what President Zelensky would want to hear at a time when Russian airstrikes have destroyed nearly 50 per cent of the country’s energy infrastructure, according to the government in Kyiv.

The men’s hopes for peace and a just outcome to the conflict may feel like distant prospects, but Sunak’s promise to hold a reconstruction conference for Ukraine next year in London will be good news for the government and companies, which desperately need access to international finance.

During the visit, Sunak also confirmed £12m for the World Food Programme’s response to Ukraine, as well as £4m for the International Organisation for Migration.

Downing Street said the funding would help provide generators and mobile health clinics, with the UK also sending tens of thousands of extreme cold winter kits for Ukrainian troops. (BBC)

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