British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged 125 anti-aircraft guns and other air defense technology as he made an unannounced visit — his first — to Ukraine’s snow-covered wartime capital on Saturday for talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The air defense package, estimated by Britain to be worth 50 million pounds (47 million euros), comes as Russia attacks Ukraine’s power grid and other key infrastructure from the air, causing widespread blackouts for millions of Ukrainians as the winter chill descends. near.
The package includes radar and other technology to counter explosive drones supplied by Iran and used by Russia against Ukrainian targets. It comes on top of a delivery of more than 1,000 anti-aircraft missiles that Britain announced earlier this month.
The UK is one of the staunchest Western backers of Ukraine’s resistance to the Russian invasion, giving Kiev £2.3bn (€2.6bn) in military aid.
Zelenskyy described the two countries as “the strongest allies”.
“With friends like you by our side, we are confident of our victory. Both our nations know what it means to fight for freedom,” the Ukrainian leader said on Twitter.
“The courage of the Ukrainian people is an inspiration for the world,” Sunak said in comments together with Zelensky in the presidential palace. “In years to come, we will tell our grandchildren your story.”
He promised that Britain would “stand by you until Ukraine gets the peace and security it needs and deserves, and then we will stand by you as you rebuild your great country”.
Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who resigned in July amid a series of ethics scandals, has been widely praised in Ukraine for his support.
Sunak wants to reassure Ukrainian leaders that there will be no change of position under his leadership, even though, when he was Britain’s finance chief under Johnson, he was seen as resistant to demands for more defense spending.
During his visit to Kyiv, Sunak laid flowers at a memorial to the war dead and lit a candle at a memorial to victims of the deadly Soviet-era famine in Ukraine in the 1930s. He also met the first responders at the fire station.
Sunak said it was “deeply humbling” to visit Kyiv “and have the opportunity to meet those who do so much and pay such a high price to defend the principles of sovereignty and democracy”.
Zelenskyy said “we discussed the most important issues for both our countries and global security”.
Together we are stronger and we will achieve the desired results, he said on Telegram.
A video posted by Zelenskyy shows him greeting Sunak at the presidential palace as snowflakes fall and the two men talk.