Zelensky welcomes 500m UK military aid package

Zelensky welcomes £500m UK military aid package

Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky has welcomed a record military package from the UK including long-range missiles, armoured vehicles and boats.

Mr Zelensky, who spoke to Rishi Sunak on Tuesday morning, said “all of this is needed on the battlefield”.

The Prime Minister announced the £500 million in military aid as he travelled to Warsaw and Berlin to meet the leaders of Poland, Germany and Nato.

Mr Sunak warned Russian President Vladimir Putin “will not stop at the Polish border” if his assault on Ukraine is allowed to succeed.

The Prime Minister said the package “will help ensure Ukraine has what they need to take the fight to Russia”.

He said: “Defending Ukraine against Russia’s brutal ambitions is vital for our security and for all of Europe. If Putin is allowed to succeed in this war of aggression, he will not stop at the Polish border.”

Mr Zelensky said it is the “largest defence support package for Ukraine to date” from the UK.

“Storm Shadow and other missiles, hundreds of armoured vehicles and watercraft, ammunition – all of this is needed on the battlefield,” he said.

“I am grateful to the UK and personally to Prime Minister Sunak for such a strong demonstration of support and for the willingness to further develop our defence co-operation, especially with an emphasis on maritime and long-range capabilities.”

The first stop of Mr Sunak’s European capitals tour on Tuesday will be to Ukraine-neighbouring Poland, where he is set to discuss security co-operation and support for Kyiv in meetings with new Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

Mr Sunak will then travel to Germany to hold one-on-one talks with Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Wednesday.

The £500 million for Ukraine will fund ammunition, air defence and UK-procured drones, as well as supporting engineering and the ramping up of domestic defence supply chains, Downing Street said.

It is new money from the Treasury reserve and not from existing Ministry of Defence budgets, according to No 10.

The uplift takes UK military funding for Kyiv to £3 billion in 2024/25, and to £7.6 billion since the start of Mr Putin’s full-scale invasion in 2022.

The promised equipment includes around 400 vehicles, more than 1,600 strike and air defence missiles, 60 boats and nearly four million rounds of small arms ammunition.

The weaponry will be delivered “as quickly as possible” in response to “specific asks from the Ukrainian government and armed forces” at a time when Kyiv “faces a difficult summer as Russia continues to ramp up his barbaric assault”, Mr Sunak’s official spokesman said.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said: “This record package of military aid will give President Zelensky and his brave nation more of the kit they need to kick Putin out and restore peace and stability in Europe.”

It comes after the US House of Representatives on the weekend approved a critical 61 billion US dollar (£49 billion) aid package for Ukraine, following a months-long stalemate over renewed American support for the war-torn nation.

Mr Sunak will use his visit to “deepen the relationship with key European partners Germany and Poland”, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said, adding: “He sees our bilateral security and economic relationship with both Warsaw and Berlin as vital for UK security and prosperity and looks forward to taking that partnership forward.”

The trip to the German capital will be his first since entering No 10, and comes as he has faced pressure to visit senior politicians from one of the UK’s most powerful European allies.

The UK and Germany are closely aligned on matters including support for Ukraine and are the two biggest suppliers of military aid to the country after the US, but have so far opted to co-operate through Nato and G7 forums instead of through strengthening bilateral ties.

Mr Sunak’s spokesman stressed the Prime Minister has regular calls with Mr Scholz and they have met at various international summits, including at last year’s Munich Security Conference.

In his first in-person meeting with his Polish counterpart Mr Tusk, the Prime Minister will seek to strengthen security, trade and diplomatic links with Warsaw.

He will offer to deploy an RAF Typhoon squadron next year to carry out Nato air policing over Poland, where around 400 British troops are stationed full-time.

Mr Sunak will also set out his goal to triple UK export finance funding available for Poland from £5 billion to £15 billion – the UK’s most generous offer to a partner country to date.

Labour’s shadow defence secretary John Healey said: “The UK is united in support of Ukraine and against Russian aggression. Labour strongly welcomes this further funding and military aid to Ukraine.

“This UK military support is vital to helping Ukraine gain an upper hand against Putin’s brutal and illegal invasion.

“There may be a change in Government to Labour this year, but there will be no change in Britain’s resolve to stand with Ukraine, confront Russian aggression and pursue Putin for his war crimes.”

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