British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced a new air defence package worth $60m as he met Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during his first trip to Kyiv since becoming prime minister.
“I am here today to say that the UK will continue to stand with you … until Ukraine has won the peace and security it needs and deserves,” Sunak said in a news conference with Zelenskyy in Kyiv.
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The British prime minister said the defence package includes “120 aircraft guns, radar and anti-drone equipment”. It comes as Russia has disabled nearly half of the country’s energy system, forcing blackouts across the country amid winter temperatures dipping to as low as zero degrees.
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) November 19, 2022
Russia has increasingly targeted Ukrainian energy infrastructure with long-range attacks since last month, including using what Kyiv says are Iranian-made drones, for which Ukraine has sought air defences from the West.
“It is deeply humbling to be with you in your country today. The courage of the Ukrainian people is an inspiration to the world,” Sunak said.
“In years to come we’ll tell our grandchildren of your story, how proud and sovereign people stood up in the face of an appalling onslaught, how you fought, how you sacrificed, how you prevailed,” Sunak added.
Zelenskyy praised a “meaningful and useful visit for both our countries” during the joint news conference.
He said they discussed “the possibilities of protecting European and Ukrainian energy security” and “our capabilities in protecting the Ukrainian sky, as well as defence cooperation in general”.
On Twitter, Zelenskyy said “with friends like you by our side, we are confident in our victory”.
On the battlefront, Ukraine has made major gains since late September, recapturing swaths of territories in the country’s east and south. Last week, the Ukrainian forces retook control of Kherson city after almost eight months of occupation.
The recent military setbacks have forced Moscow to call for partial mobilisation and fire officers. It intensified missile and drone attacks in the wake of the battleground failures.
Sunak, a former finance minister, took office last month following the short-lived premiership of Liz Truss.
She and her predecessor Boris Johnson had both made public support for Ukraine an important part of their agenda, a pledge that Sunak has maintained.