Sunak, in Kyiv, unveils ‘unprecedented’ aid package for Ukraine

KYIV: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced Friday a new multibillion-dollar aid package for Ukraine during a surprise visit to Kyiv, where he vowed British support for a decade.
The pledge came at a crucial time for Ukraine as its allies in Brussels and Washington struggle to secure funding while Russia bolsters its weapon stockpiles and the ranks of its armed forces.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hailed the “unprecedented” 10-year security cooperation agreement as well as the 2.5 billion euros ($3.2 billion) in new military aid earmarked for 2024.
“Today marks a watershed moment in European history,” Zelenskyy told reporters at a joint appearance with Sunak in Kyiv.
The aid includes a wide range of arms and ammunition that are running in short supply in Ukraine, like artillery shells and drones.
Sunak urged other Western countries to double-down on their Ukraine support.
“If Putin wins in Ukraine, he will not stop there, and our opponents around the world believe that we have neither the patience nor resources for long wars — so waver now and we embolden not just Putin but his allies in North Korea, Iran and elsewhere,” he said.
– ‘Embolden’ Putin –
The UK package will include “more air defence equipment, more anti-tank weapons, more long-range missiles, thousands of rounds more of ammunition and artillery shells,” Sunak added.
London will also train “thousands more Ukrainian servicemen,” he said, and allocate 200 million euros to build thousands more drones – “the single largest package of drones given to Ukraine by any nation.”
The aid came as Ukraine has warned it is in dire need of air defence capabilities to fend off increased aerial attacks.
Sunak said the security package would “form the core” of London’s alliance with Ukraine for “100 years or more”.
He also said the UK believed that Ukraine should be in NATO at a time when Kyiv has expressed frustration that it has not received sufficient security guarantees from the US-led defence alliance.
“You belong in NATO and NATO will be stronger with you,” Sunak said.
Zelensky said that if Ukraine had been given security guarantees like the 10-year pledge of support, after the breakup of the Soviet Union, “there would have been no Russian aggression at all”.
Sunak had earlier said his trip was intended to “send a strong signal of support to the Ukrainian people”, adding that Putin “needs to recognise we’re not going anywhere”.
– ‘Great courage’ –
The British leader’s visit came as Ukraine authorities said Russian shelling killed two people in the southern city of Kherson.
“A woman died on the spot,” said Kherson’s regional head Oleksandr Prokudin, adding that a “burnt body was also found in a car”.
Sunak met with emergency service workers in Kyiv responding to the aftermath of Russian air strikes, which have intensified since late December, and praised Ukrainian “courage.”
The latest commitment takes the UK’s overall support for Ukraine’s war efforts to nearly 12 billion euros.
British equipment already supplied to Kyiv includes Storm Shadow cruise missiles and a squadron of Challenger 2 tanks.
UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron had also vowed to maintain military support for Ukraine, during an unannounced visit to Kyiv in November.
Zelenskyy said at the time that the flow of artillery ammunition from Western allies had dropped since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas in October.
A top Ukrainian commander recently described the war as a stalemate, with no clear sign of a breakthrough on the front lines.
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