Following visits to Italy, Germany and France, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived this morning in the United Kingdom, Ukraine’s second most generous ally, for a meeting with UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak that yielded the promise of “hundreds” more missiles and drones for Ukraine.
On arrival, Zelensky tweeted that “the UK is a leader when it comes to expanding our capabilities on the ground and in the air. This cooperation will continue today.”
“I will meet my friend Rishi. We will conduct substantive negotiations face-to-face and in delegations,” Zelensky said.
Today – London. The UK is a leader when it comes to expanding our capabilities on the ground and in the air. This cooperation will continue today. I will meet my friend Rishi. We will conduct substantive negotiations face-to-face and in delegations.— Volodymyr Zelenskyy / Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) May 15, 2023
A statement released by No. 10 Downing Street noted that “the Prime Minister will confirm the further UK provision of hundreds of air defense missiles and further unmanned aerial systems including hundreds of new long-range attack drones with a range of over 200 kilometers.”
“These will all be delivered over the coming months as Ukraine prepares to intensify its resistance to the ongoing Russian invasion,” the official statement continued.
“We must not let them [Ukraine] down,” the Prime Minister said in the statement.
He added it was “a crucial moment” in Ukraine's war effort - a potential reference to the pending Ukrainian counter-offensive against Russian forces occupying Ukrainian territory.
“The front lines of Putin's war of aggression may be in Ukraine, but the fault lines stretch all over the world. It is in all our interest to ensure Ukraine succeeds and Putin's barbarism is not rewarded,” Sunak, who has visited Ukraine, said.
After meeting Sunak, Zelensky said he was hopeful of securing a quick deal to get fighter jets from Western partners. Zelensky confirmed the pair talked about the issue during a meeting at the prime minister’s country retreat northwest of London.
Afterwards he said he was “very positive” about creating a “jets coalition” for the war against Russia and that a decision would come “in the closest time”.
“You will hear some I think very important decisions,” he said in English but added that “a little bit more” work was needed until then.
Thus far during Russia’s full-scale invasion, according to the Kiel Institute’s Ukraine Support Tracker, the UK has provided Ukraine with the second most support in the world after the US and ahead of all EU countries. British support equals some $10.68 billion; the UK also ranks eighth in the world in support as a proportion of national GDP.
President Zelensky held talks with the Prime Minister at Chequers, becoming the first world leader the Prime Minister has hosted at the residence. This visit follows President Zelensky’s visit to the UK in February, which was only the second time the leader had left Ukraine since Putin’s full-scale invasion in February 2022.
In their talks, No. 10 said the Prime Minister will also reiterate the “importance the UK places on providing a total package of support” including military equipment, training, economic support, “biting sanctions against Putin’s regime and by long-term security assurances to ensure Ukraine’s sovereignty can never be breached in this way again.”
In an unexpected move late last week, after many Western countries had proved reluctant to provide Ukraine with long-range weapons, the UK’s Defense Secretary, Ben Wallace, confirmed donation of long-range Storm Shadow cruise missiles to Ukraine in a statement to Parliament.
As noted by Kyiv Post, the ‘export’ version of the missile has a 300 km range and has been modified to allow it to operate from Ukraine’s existing fleet of former-Soviet aircraft without further adjustment. It uses GPS, terrain mapping and other sensors to deliver the 450kg, two stage ‘Bomb Royal Ordnance Augmented Charge’ (BROACH) warhead onto the target.
Mr Zelensky’s trip to the UK is the fourth stop on a European tour that included meetings in Rome, the Holy See, Berlin and Paris.
One weekend! Let’s sink that! 🇺🇦🇮🇹🇻🇦🇩🇪🇫🇷🇬🇧 Stay Safe!!! pic.twitter.com/l5DpV76kTJ— Nicole 🤍💙 (@PN46PN46) May 15, 2023
As Zelensky headed to the UK, its Ministry of Defence revealed that, on May 3, two weeks ago, Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) attacked Russia’s Seshcha Air Base which is 150 kilometers north of the Ukrainian border. The drone raid damaged an An-124 heavy transport aircraft.
The Antonov An-124 ‘Ruslan’ is the second largest heavy transport aircraft in the world after the Antonov An-224 ‘Mriya’, a one-off Ukrainian aircraft that Russian forces destroyed on the first days of their invasion on the outskirts of Kyiv. Russia reportedly has 25 An-124s in service.
In its May 15 Defence Intelligence Update, the Ministry for Defence said that “Seshcha is a hub for [military transport] in western Russia and has played a major role in enabling Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia also uses the site to launch Iranian-produced, one-way-attack UAVs toward Kyiv.”
“Russian leaders will be concerned that Russia’s air defences continue to be compromised,” the British intelligence briefing continued.
Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine - 15 May 2023.— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) May 15, 2023
Find out more about Defence Intelligence's use of language: https://t.co/MGwmuNjs6P
🇺🇦 #StandWithUkraine 🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/Y1CpyDzOTN
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