Rishi Sunak described as “deeply humbling” his first visit to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on Saturday since taking charge as British Prime Minister and pledged to bolster the UK's support in the country's ongoing conflict with Russia.
Meeting President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Sunak confirmed that Britain will provide a major new package of air defence to help protect Ukrainian civilians and critical national infrastructure from an intense barrage of Russian strikes.
The GBP 50 million package of 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.
It follows more than 1,000 new anti-air missiles announced by the UK’s Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, earlier this month.
“It is deeply humbling to be in Kyiv today and to have the opportunity to meet those who are doing so much, and paying so high a price, to defend the principles of sovereignty and democracy,” said Sunak, who became the British Prime Minister in October.
“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,” he said.
“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.
The UK has also pledged to enhance its training offer to Ukrainian’s armed forces, sending expert army medics and engineers to the region to offer specialised support.
In Kyiv, Sunak laid flowers at a memorial for the war dead and lit a candle at a memorial for victims of the Holodomor famine, before meeting first responders at a fire station.
Downing Street said the team of emergency responders described their harrowing work rescuing survivors from the rubble and fighting fires in the aftermath of Russian airstrikes and mortar attacks.
Sunak also saw captured Iranian-made drones which have been used to target and bomb civilians in recent months.
With difficult winter months ahead of widespread blackouts of destruction of homes, schools and hospitals, Downing Street said the Prime Minister has also confirmed GBP 12 million for the World Food Programme’s response, as well as GBP 4 million for the International Organisation for Migration.
The funding will help provide generators, shelter, water repairs and mobile health clinics. The UK said it is also sending tens of thousands of extreme cold winter kits for Ukrainian troops.
The UK government says it has identified an initial eight construction projects to be supported by UK Export Finance, helping to repair Ukraine’s critical infrastructure and lay the foundations for economic recovery.
The projects include six bridges and two housing projects, including a development in Bucha for some 2,250 residents.
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