British PM Rishi Sunak welcomes Ukraine President Zelenskyy on surprise visit

Downing Street said Zelenskyy updated Sunak on his meetings with European leaders over the weekend as Ukraine prepares for an intensified period of military activity.

London: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Monday laid out a warm welcome for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on a surprise visit to the UK and reiterated his support for the war-torn European nation by offering further military support, including air defence missiles and armed drones.

Downing Street said Zelenskyy updated Sunak on his meetings with European leaders over the weekend as Ukraine prepares for an intensified period of military activity.

The visit also comes ahead of the Council of Europe Summit in Iceland, which Sunak is due to travel for this week ahead of a visit to Tokyo for the G7 Summit in Japan.

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“This is a crucial moment in Ukraine’s resistance to a terrible war of aggression they did not choose or provoke. They need the sustained support of the international community to defend against the barrage of unrelenting and indiscriminate attacks that have been their daily reality for over a year,” said Sunak.

“We must not let them down. The frontlines of [Russian President] 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,” he said.

The British Indian leader said the UK is sustaining its support to Ukraine with tanks, training, ammunition and armoured vehicles.

“And this message of solidarity will ring loud in all my meetings with fellow world leaders in the days ahead,” he added.

Downing Street said Sunak will use his tour of Iceland and Japan to continue to push for sustained international support for Ukraine, both in terms of military aid and long-term security assurances.

Last week, the UK confirmed that that it had provided Storm Shadow precision missiles to Ukraine. This is the first long-range cruise missile in Ukraine’s arsenal and will be critical in helping the country defend against the relentless bombardment of their critical national infrastructure.

On Monday, Sunak confirmed the further UK provision of hundreds of air defence missiles and further unmanned aerial systems including hundreds of new long-range attack drones with a range of over 200km. These will all be delivered over the coming months as Ukraine prepares to intensify its resistance against Russia, Downing Street said.

During their meeting, both leaders discussed what support Ukraine needs from the international community, in terms of immediate military equipment and long-term defences.

Zelenskyy held talks with Sunak at his countryside retreat of Chequers, marking the first world leader the British Prime Minister has hosted at the residence.

“The Prime Minister outlined the new package of support the UK has announced today, including further air defence missiles and drones. This builds on the confirmation last week that the UK has become the first country to provide long-range cruise missiles to Ukraine,” Downing Street said in a readout of their meeting.

Sunak is said to have reiterated that the UK will continue its support to ensure Ukraine secures a “just and lasting peace”, which includes both immediate military support and providing long-term security assistance to guarantee Ukraine’s ability to deter aggression.

Sunak later tweeted that the UK will give them the “training they need to handle different types of aircraft” and “better defend their citizens against Russian aggression”.

The visit this week follows Zelenskyy’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.

According to the UK government, Britain has provided GBP 2.3 billion worth of military support to Ukraine in 2022 more than any country other than the US.

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