Rishi Sunak has made his first visit to Ukraine since taking office, where he met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and made a £50million arms pledge.
The Prime Minister, who arrived in Kyiv this afternoon, said he was ‘deeply humbled’ to have his first face-to-face meeting with the Ukrainian President.
During the suprise visit, Mr Sunak confirmed a £50million package to help bolster Ukrainian air defences, against Putin’s forces and Iranian-supplied drones.
The UK defence spending aims to ‘protect Ukrainian civilians and critical national infrastructure from an intense barrage of Russian strikes’.
It comes following a tense week in the country as Russia has escalated its missile attacks.
Yesterday saw a bombardment on Kyiv, with concerns that attacks on power plants could lead to a ‘complete shutdown’ as temperatures plummet and the first snow arrives in the city.
Rishi Sunak has made his first visit to Ukraine since taking office, where he has met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
Writing in English and Ukrainian, Mr Sunak said on Twitter: ‘Britain knows what it means to fight for freedom. We are with you all the way @ZelenskyyUa’.
Mr Zelensky posted a video this afternoon showing the two leaders meeting in Kyiv.
‘During today’s meeting, we discussed the most important issues both for our countries and for global security,’ he wrote on the Telegram messaging app.
He added: ‘Since the first days of the war, Ukraine and the UK have been the strongest of allies.
‘Together we are stronger and we will achieve the desired results.’
The Prime Minister was welcomed by Ukrainian military personnel.
Downing Street confirmed Mr Sunak’s visit, with a spokesperson saying: ‘The Prime Minister is in Ukraine today for his first visit to Kyiv to meet President Zelenskyy and confirm continued UK support.’
Despite accepting an invitation from Mr Zelensky to come to Kyiv, Mr Sunak’s predecessor Liz Truss never actually made the journey during her 44 days in office.
Boris Johnson shared a friendly relationship with Mr Zelensky and visited Ukraine on multiple occasions as Prime Minister.
Mr Sunak has vowed that the close partnership between the UK and Ukraine will continue under his leadership.
The Prime Minister, who has spoken to Mr Zelensky on more than one occasion since entering Downing Street, used his appearance at the G20 this week to join with allies and other Western leaders to condemn Vladimir Putin’s invasion.
Boris Johnson shared a friendly relationship with Mr Zelensky and visited Ukraine on multiple occasions as Prime Minister
Then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as they walked around the Independence Square in capital Kyiv in August
A video of the meeting, posted by Mr Sunak’s Twitter account, shows him shaking hands with the Ukrainian leader in a snowy Kyiv.
‘Welcome. How are you?’ Mr Zelensky asks the Prime Minister.
‘Really good to see you,’ Mr Sunak says as Mr Zelensky gestures at the falling snow.
The pair are shown shaking hands in front of the Union flag and Ukraine’s flag, before holding a one-to-one meeting.
The visit comes after a missile hit a Polish village close to the Ukrainian border, initially sparking concerns Russia had struck a Nato member state.
Some of the tensions have been eased after experts reported it is likely the hit can be attributed to Ukrainian defence forces.
Firefighters work to put out a fire in a thermal power plant, damaged by a Russian missile strike in Kyiv yesterday
The new defence package pledged by the UK government consists of 125 anti-aircraft guns and technology to help take out Iranian-supplied drones.
This includes dozens of radars and anti-drone electronic warfare capability.
UK troops will also step up their training of Ukrainian soldiers and will send army medics and engineers to help the country defend themselves against Putin’s forces.
Announcing the package, Mr Sunak said: ‘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.
‘While Ukraine’s armed forces succeed in pushing back Russian forces on the ground, civilians are being brutally bombarded from the air.
‘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.’
A Ukrainian soldier fires an anti-tank missile at an undisclosed location in the Donetsk region of Ukraine
Tuesday saw one of Russia’s largest-scale attacks on Ukraine to date, with over 100 missiles fired on cities across the country including Kyiv.
They hit civilian buildings and power stations, the Ukrainian air force said.
The bombardment left half of Kyiv, where at least one civilian died, and the whole city of Zhytomyr without power.
Strikes were also reported in Lviv, which was said to be in a partial blackout, with Kharkiv, Vinnytsia, Rivne, Odesa, Zaporizhzhia, Chernihiv, Khmelnytskyi, and Ivano-Frankivsk also targeted – though the situation in those cities was less clear.
It came just hours after Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky – speaking via videolink from Kyiv – told world leaders at the G20 Bali summit that he is ready to end the war provided Russia withdraws its troops from areas it currently occupies.