UK PM Sunak makes surprise trip to Kyiv, boosts defense aid

UK PM Sunak makes surprise trip to Kyiv, boosts defense aid

KYIV., Ukraine — Prime Minister Rishi Sunak promised 125 antiaircraft guns as well as other air-defense technology to Ukraine’s capital. This was his first visit to the snow-blanked capital. The air-defense package, valued at 50million pounds ($60million by Britain, comes as Russia has been pounding Ukraine from the air, causing widespread blackouts and other infrastructure issues for millions of Ukrainians in frigid conditions. The package includes radar and other technology that can counter the Iran-supplied, exploding drones Russia has used against Ukrainian targets. It comes on top of a delivery of more than 1,000 anti-air missiles that Britain announced earlier this month.

The U.K. has been a staunch Western backer of Ukraine’s resistance against Russia’s invasion. Sunak, who was speaking alongside Zelenskyy also noted that the U.K. had given 2.3 billion pounds ($2.7 million) in military aid to Ukraine and promised: “We will again do the same next year.” Sunak announced the new air-defense package.

Zelenskyy stated that Russian strikes had caused damage to half of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.

As snowflakes fell, Zelenskyy met Sunak at a presidential palace to begin their talks. Zelenskyy called the two countries “the most powerful of allies.” They walked in the snow to inspect captured Russian tanks and other military hardware that was used by the invasion force. These are displayed in a Kyiv square. With friends like you at our side, we are confident about our victory. On Twitter, the leader of Ukraine said that both countries know what it means “to stand up for freedom.”

The former U.K. Prime minister Boris Johnson, who resigned in July amid ethics scandals and was widely praised in Ukraine for his support and repeatedly visited Kyiv. Sunak wants to reassure Ukraine’s leaders about the fact that there will not be any change in stance under his leadership. However, when he was U.K. Treasury Chief under Johnson, he was resistant to higher defense spending demands.

” The courage of the Ukrainian people inspires the world,” Sunak stated. “In years to come, we will tell our grandchildren of your story.”

He pledged that Britain “will stand with you until Ukraine has won the peace and security it needs and deserves and then we will stand with you as you rebuild your great country.”

Sunak also laid flowers at a memorial for the war dead, lit a candle at a memorial for victims of a deadly Soviet-era famine in Ukraine in the 1930s, and met first responders at a fire station, his office said.

Sunak visited the country in the wake a significant recent battlefield victory for Ukraine: the capture of Kherson, the southern city.

Residents of Kherson waited eagerly for the first train to Kyiv on Saturday, as they celebrated the restoration of rail connections.

“This is the beginning of a new life,” said 74-year-old Ludmila Olhouskaya, who didn’t have anyone to meet off the train but went to the station to show support. “Or, rather, the revival of an old one .”

On Saturday, Russian forces launched 10 aerial strikes, 10 ballistic missile strikes, and 42 rocket assaults on Ukraine. This was according to the General Staff of Ukraine’s armed forces.

Russia is waging an offensive in eastern Donetsk. Ukraine reported heavy fighting around Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Novopavlivka.

Russian forces claimed that they had repelled a Ukrainian counteroffensive to retake the settlements of Pershotravneve and Kyslivka in Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region.

Ukrainian forces claimed that they killed or injured scores of Russian soldiers in an attack on Mykhailivka, a village in the southern Kherson area. The wounded were then taken to hospitals in Crimea. This claim could not independently be verified.

Ukrainian forces reported that they carried out deadly strikes on the Kinburn Spit, a critical site for Russian electronic warfare. According to the chief of the region,

Russia continued its strikes against critical infrastructure. A rocket attack caused a fire at an important industrial facility in Ukraine’s southern Zaporizhzhia. Some parts of Zaporizhzhia’s regional capital were without heat.

The head of Ukraine’s largest private energy company told the BBC that Ukrainians should consider leaving the country to ease the pressure on its war-damaged power grid.

” If they can find somewhere else to stay for three to four more months, it will be very beneficial to the system,” Maxim Timchenko chief executive of DTEK said. “If you consume less, hospitals with wounded soldiers will have a guaranteed supply of power. “

A funeral was held in Poland Saturday for one of two men who were killed by a missile that landed there this week. According to the state news agency PAP, The man’s family was joined by a military honor guard, as well as representatives from Ukraine and Poland.

NATO member Poland, and the head of military alliance, both claimed that the missile strike in the eastern farming region was unintentional and likely launched by air defenses from neighboring Ukraine. Russia was bombarding Ukraine at that time.

The U.K. Ministry of Defense noted Saturday that Russia conducted its largest ever-debt issuance in a single day, raising $13.6 billion on Wednesday. It stated that debt issuance is a key mechanism for maintaining defense spending, which has increased in Russia significantly since February’s invasion of Ukraine.

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Lawless reported from London. This story was contributed by Elise Morton, London, and Sam Mednick, Kherson, Ukraine.

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Follow all AP stories about the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine.

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