British prime minister visits Ukrainian capital after continued Russian missile shelling
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged further military and economic aid to Ukraine in his first face-to-face meeting with President Volodymir Zelensky in Kiev on Saturday. “The UK knows what it means to fight for freedom. We stand with Zelenski and with Ukraine,” tweeted the conservative leader on his official social network account, along with a video with recorded scenes of his first trip to the country since he became head of government in October.
The prime minister’s office also announced a £50 million (about 60 million euros) air defence package, as well as humanitarian aid and guarantees of British funding for infrastructure and housing reconstruction projects in the country.
“We will provide new air defence today, including anti-aircraft weaponry, radar and anti-drone equipment, and bolster humanitarian aid ahead of the bitterly cold winter ahead,” he said, while reaffirming the UK’s support for the Ukrainian people who are “fighting to end this barbaric war”.
London has from the outset been in the international vanguard in acting in favour of Kiev and against Russia’s invasion of the former Soviet republic. The previous prime minister, Boris Johnson, visited the capital on numerous occasions and was in contact with President Zelenski on an almost daily basis until his resignation last July. Sunak, and his predecessor, Liz Truss, have taken up the baton of the British crusade to prevent a Kremlin victory.
The aid announced on Saturday also includes £12 million for the World Food Programme and £4 million for the International Organisation for Migration. Defence is sending uniforms and winter supplies for Ukrainian troops.
Sunak paid tribute to war dead and Soviet-era famine victims during his visit to Ukraine. He met with emergency and rescue personnel working at a Kiev fire station, as well as meeting with Zelenski at government headquarters. “It is humbling to be here in Kiev and to have the opportunity to meet with those who are doing so much, and paying such a high price, to defend the principles of democracy and sovereignty,” the British premier said.
The UK government has already identified “eight initial projects” to be supported by the state Export Finance Agency in order to “repair Ukraine’s critical infrastructure and lay the foundations for economic recovery”.