British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak promised 125 anti-aircraft guns and other air defense technology as he made an unannounced visit Saturday – his first – to Ukraine’s snow-covered wartime capital for talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The air defense package, which Britain estimates at around £50m (€47m), comes as Russia bombs Ukraine’s power grid and other key infrastructure from the air, causing widespread blackouts for millions of Ukrainians. The approaching harsh winter. near.
The package includes radar and other technology to counter explosive drones provided by Iran and used by Russia against Ukrainian targets. This comes in addition to the delivery of more than 1,000 anti-aircraft missiles Britain announced earlier this month.
The United Kingdom has been one of the strongest Western backers of Ukraine’s resistance to the Russian invasion, with Kyiv providing £2.3 billion (€2.6 billion) in military aid.
Zelensky described the two countries as “the strongest of allies”.
“With friends like you on our side, we are confident of our victory. Both countries know what it means to defend freedom,” the Ukrainian leader said on Twitter.
“The courage of the Ukrainian people is a source of inspiration to the world,” Sunak said in remarks alongside Zelensky at the presidential palace. “In the years to come we will tell our grandchildren your story.”
He vowed that Britain “will stand with you until Ukraine has the peace and security it needs and deserves, and then we will stand with you as you rebuild your great country”.
Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who stepped down in July amid morals scandals, has won wide acclaim in Ukraine for his support.
Sunak is keen to reassure Ukraine’s leaders that there will be no change in the situation under him, although when he was head of the British Treasury under Johnson he was seen as opposed to demands for higher 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 the victims of the deadly Soviet-era famine in Ukraine in the 1930s. He also met first responders at a fire station.
Sunak said it was “extremely painful” to visit Kyiv and to have the opportunity to meet those who do so much and pay so dearly to defend the principles of sovereignty and democracy.
“We discussed the most important issues both for our countries and for global security,” Zelensky said.
“Together we are stronger and we will achieve the desired results,” he said on Telegram.
A video released by Zelensky showed him greeting Sunak at a presidential palace as snowflakes fell and the two men held talks.