Rishi Sunak tells Volodymyr Zelensky of 'steadfast support' for Ukraine as UK promises £500m more in aid

Rishi Sunak tells Volodymyr Zelensky of 'steadfast support' for Ukraine as UK promises £500m more in aid

Rishi Sunak on Tuesday assured Volodymyr Zelensky of Britain’s support for Ukraine against Vladimir Putin’s “brutal and expansionist ambitions” as the PM outlined an extra £500 million in UK military aid.

As he headed for visits to Poland and Germany, Mr Sunak spoke with Ukraine’s president and confirmed the new aid package including 60 boats, more than 400 vehicles and over 1,600 missiles.

“The Prime Minister spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky this morning, to assure him of the UK’s steadfast support for Ukraine’s defence against Russia’s brutal and expansionist ambitions,” a Downing Street spokesperson said.

“President Zelensky thanked the Prime Minister for the UK’s continued support, saying the new military assistance would make a material difference to ordinary Ukrainians fighting on the frontline to defend their country.

The latest package is Britain’s biggest single commitment yet of military equipment for Ukraine and takes the total support this year to £3 billion. It comes after the US House of Representatives finally approved a $60 billion military package for Ukraine after overcoming opposition from Republican members allied with Donald Trump.

Mr Zelensky tweeted his thanks to Britain.

“Storm Shadow and other missiles, hundreds of armoured vehicles and watercraft, ammunition—all of this is needed on the battlefield,” he said.“I am grateful to the UK and personally to Prime Minister Sunak for such a strong demonstration of support and for the willingness to further develop our defence cooperation, especially with an emphasis on maritime and long-range capabilities.”

Ukraine’s president added: “We discussed the need for an effective model for confiscating frozen Russian assets. We also shared our expectations for the upcoming Peace Summit in Switzerland and European Political Community Summit in the UK.”

Mr Sunak was heading first to Ukraine’s neighbour Poland, where he was set to discuss security cooperation and support for Kyiv in meetings with new Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. He was then due in Berlin to meet German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.An offensive by Vladimir Putin’s army to open up a wide breach in Ukraine’s defences is set to be “blunted” by the US, Britain and other allies supplying more military aid to Kyiv’s forces, defence experts said.

Ukraine is pleading for this equipment and munitions to be rushed to the frontline to stop Russia seizing Chasiv Yar, a heavily fortified hilltop town and forward artillery base for the Ukrainian army.

Putin is believed to want the capture of the town in eastern Ukraine in time for the May 9 Victory Parade in Moscow which celebrates the Soviet Victory over Nazi Germany in 1945.

There were reports that 25,000 troops were being launched into the offensive in the Donetsk province of the Donbas region.

If Chasiv Yar fell, Putin’s military would then be able to target the wider “fortress wall” defences in Donetsk, say military experts.

The Russian army is seeking to advance in at least three areas along this section of the frontline.

“Russian forces appear to be aiming to make a wide penetration of Ukrainian lines northwest of Avdiivka, Donetsk Oblast (province), but their ability to do so will likely be blunted by the arrival of US and other Western aid to the frontline,” said the Washington-based think tank, The Institute for War.

Mr Zelensky held talks on Sunday with army chief Oleksandr Syrskyi and Defence Minister Rustem Umerov about Chasiv Yar and other battles on the frontline.

In an interview with NBC, he urged Washington to quickly turn the $60 billion support Bill into law and supply weapons before a full-scale attack on Chasiv Yar and other parts of the frontline.

“We are preparing (for an offensive),” said Mr Zelensky, reiterating Colonel-General Syrskyi’s warning that Russia aims to capture the Chasiv Yar by May 9, one of Russia’s largest public holidays.

“I hope we will be able to stay, and the weapons will come on time, and we will repel the enemy, and then we’ll break the plans of the Russian Federation with regards to this full-scale offensive.”