Rishi Sunak to set out £240m Ukraine aid package as G7 to focus on Russia

Rishi Sunak will set out a £240m aid package to Ukraine as world leaders meet to discuss how to intensify financial pressure on Russia.

The prime minister, in what could be his last G7 summit in the job, will use the visit to Puglia to say the UK is behind Ukraine "whatever it takes" as the war grinds on.

Downing Street said the money would be used for emergency humanitarian aid and to rebuild critical energy infrastructure targeted by Russian bombing, as well as wider reconstruction.

This is part of a £2.5bn military aid package to Ukraine this year. Agreed by Mr Sunak on a trip to Kyiv in January, the UK-Ukraine security deal includes the largest delivery of drones by any nation.

Although the latest financial commitment was made before the general election was called, the prime minister will hope the focus on Ukraine will help rebut accusations he has little interest in foreign affairs, following the debacle over his early departure from the D-Day commemorations, which has dogged his election campaign so far.

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Mr Sunak said ahead of the summit in Italy: "We must be decisive and creative in our efforts to support Ukraine and end Putin's illegal war at this critical moment.

"The UK remains at the forefront of the international response as we have been from the outset.

"We must move from 'as long as it takes' to 'whatever it takes' if we are to end this illegal war.

"From Ukraine to the Middle East, we will be discussing significant global threats at the summit. Such threats are why it is so vital to strengthen the UK's national defence, through our commitment to spend 2.5% of GDP on defence by 2030."

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Several G7 leaders are feeling the pressure to deliver, as they face potentially difficult encounters with their electorates.

President Emmanuel Macron, of France, has called parliamentary elections for the end of this month.

US President Joe Biden will also attend and is expected to sign a bilateral security agreement with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who is invited to the summit.

The White House said it would send a signal to Russia of American resolve in supporting Kyiv. It is three years since President Biden, at his first G7 summit in Cornwall, declared America was back as a global leader.

Russia is top of the G7 agenda and leaders will discuss how frozen Russian assets held in their countries - with a combined value of $285bn - can be used to support Ukraine.

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But a rift appears to have emerged between the US and European governments over a proposed scheme to loan Ukraine $50bn dollars.

Most of the frozen assets, held by the G7 since 2022, are in Europe and reports quoting EU diplomats suggest Mr Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will tell Mr Biden they do not want to act as guarantors for the loan - fearing they would be taking all the risk while American companies could benefit the most from Ukraine reconstruction contracts.

UK officials say it is a priority for the prime minister and other leaders that "Russia must pay for the damage it is causing Ukraine", with "all lawful avenues" being explored.

The prime minister is also expected to discuss global migration challenges, climate change and AI with other leaders, as well as the ongoing efforts to secure a ceasefire in the Middle East.

The United Nations Security Council has now backed a US resolution for the plan - including the release of hostages and a prisoner swap.

The US has said Israel has accepted the proposal, despite conflicting remarks from Mr Netanyahu - while Hamas has taken two weeks to propose changes, some of which the US has deemed unworkable.