Zelensky hails UK support with 25bn in military aid pledged for next year
Volodymyr Zelensky has hailed the UK’s £2.5 billion military aid package for Ukraine, as Rishi Sunak promised to continue to stand with the country in its fight against Russia.
The Prime Minister travelled to Kyiv on Friday to unveil the new funding, becoming the first foreign leader to visit Ukraine this year.
With an increase of £200 million on the last two years, the military support comes at a crucial time for President Zelensky amid fears that interest is flagging among allies as the war drags on.
The two leaders also signed a new security agreement, committing the UK to provide “swift and sustained” assistance if Ukraine is ever attacked by Russia again.
Mr Zelensky hailed Mr Sunak’s “personal leadership” and said the agreement would lay “the groundwork for our further work with our other partners”.
The UK is the first country to sign a final security agreement with Ukraine, after G7 countries agreed at last year’s Nato summit to sign bilateral security assurances with the country.
At a press conference alongside the Ukrainian president, Mr Sunak said “our opponents around the world believe that we have neither the patience nor the resources for long wars”.
He said: “Ukraine is not alone, and Ukraine will never be alone. Putin might think that he can outlast us but he is wrong. We stand with you today, tomorrow and for as long as it takes.
“Because this war is about Ukraine’s right to defend itself and to determine your own future and the Ukrainian people’s historic choice to be an independent democracy at the heart of Europe.
“Your quest for freedom has inspired and moved the British people and for the free nations of the world aid to Ukraine is also an investment in our own collective security.
“Because if Putin wins in Ukraine, he will not stop there, and our opponents around the world believe that we have neither the patience nor resources for long wars. So waver now and we embolden not just Putin, but his allies in North Korea, Iran and elsewhere.
“That’s why the United Kingdom and the free world will continue to stand with Ukraine, as we have since the very beginning of this war.”
Number 10 said the £2.5 billion in funding would cover long-range missiles, air defence, artillery ammunition and maritime security.
Around £200 million will also be spent on a push to procure and produce thousands of military drones, which the Government said was the largest delivery of drones to Ukraine from any nation.
Most are expected to be manufactured in the UK.
The meeting between the two leaders saw Mr Sunak awarded the Ukrainian order of freedom, an honour also bestowed on his predecessor Boris Johnson.
The UK has been among the most vocal backers of Ukraine since the war began, with Mr Zelensky visiting London early last year in a historic trip.
The Ukraine leader has previously said that the country particularly needs air defence systems to fend off Russian aerial barrages.
More than 500 drones and missiles were fired between December 29 and January 2, according to officials in Kyiv.
But there have been concerns that global focus on the war has moved, as the crisis in the Middle East continues to escalate and concerns grow about the fate of civilians in Gaza.
The Prime Minister’s visit came hours after UK and US forces launched strikes against targets used by Houthi rebels in Yemen in a bid to disrupt attacks on commercial shipping.
Mr Sunak met with Ukrainian emergency workers during the visit, with a further £18 million in aid also announced for the country.
Funding and resources would also be provided for English language training in Ukraine, Number 10 said.
Labour backed the “vital support” for Ukraine, as Sir Keir Starmer urged the need for politicians to remain united on the issue.
“I think it’s really important that we keep our focus on Ukraine,” he said.
“We have had cross-party support for Ukraine for a very long time and we need to maintain that in the face of Russian aggression that has been going on for a long time now,” the Labour leader said.
“I’m supportive of what the Prime Minister is saying today and we will remain united across our political parties in defence of Ukraine against that aggression from Putin.”
Published: by Radio NewsHub