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Channel Churchill and reclaim UK’s role in leading support for Ukraine, Sunak urged

Volodymyr Zelensky Winston Churchill
Volodymyr Zelensky has said failure to help his country defeat Russia would be a ‘dream’ for the Kremlin - Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/Zuma Press/eyevine

European leaders are urging Rishi Sunak to channel Winston Churchill and reclaim Britain’s role in leading Western support for Ukraine.

Allies want Britain to step up as Germany, France and the US struggle to maintain their backing for Kyiv, senior diplomatic sources have told The Telegraph.

“It’s clear there is no Churchill figure in the Tory ranks right now, and without it the rest of Europe seems to have forgotten what’s at stake,” said one source.

There are fears Europe and America’s waning support could leave Ukraine facing military defeat, despite promises that it could join the European Union and Nato.

Allies hope Mr Sunak can be the leader to “inject new momentum” into the response, with Emmanuel Macron, the French president, and Olaf Scholz, Germany’s chancellor, increasingly constrained.

It comes with Volodymr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, set to hold crunch talks in Washington on Tuesday in a last-ditch attempt to unlock billions of dollars in US aid.

In a speech to US officers at the National Defense University in Washington, Mr Zelensky warned that failure to help his country defeat Russia would be a “dream” for the Kremlin.

Kyiv risks a double blow this week, with EU nations locked in disputes over a €50 billion financial lifeline and how to start negotiations for Ukraine to join the bloc at a summit in Brussels later this week.

Meanwhile, Russia is on the front foot on the battlefield and has benefited from a growing supply of arms from Iran and North Korea.

Olga Stefanishyna, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister for European integration, said on Monday that international promises to stand with her country were “100 per cent” being tested for the first time.

Germany has warned that it cannot afford to give Brussels additional cash because of domestic budget constraints, putting further strain on the talks over financial aid. At the same time, France was accused of not pulling its weight in the international effort to arm Ukraine.

Hungary has vowed to thwart the EU membership talks and a €100 billion increase to the bloc’s budget, half of which is earmarked for Ukraine.

“If none of the major players chip in, where does this leave Kyiv? Being overrun in front of the gates of the EU and Nato,” a diplomatic source told The Telegraph.

“The fear is that if Berlin doesn’t get out of the sadomasochistic budget whipping exercise, and if Macron’s preference is for big speeches over big support, we accept Kyiv and Europe lose this war.

“Now Scholz and Macron are too preoccupied with their own travails, Sunak should take the lead and bring them together to inject new momentum. It can’t go on like this.”

Figures released last week by the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, a German think tank tracking aid to Ukraine, said commitments had reached a new low between August and October.

Global promises of just €2.11 billion of support were offered to Kyiv, a 90 per cent decrease compared to the same period last year.

On Monday, Britain pledged to send amphibious landing vehicles to the Ukrainian army a day after committing mine-hunting ships. The UK built a reputation as being Ukraine’s most supportive ally in Europe, with Boris Johnson credited for spearheading the initial response to the Russian invasion.

The diplomat source said: “It’s clear there is no Churchill figure in the Tory ranks right now, and without it the rest of Europe seems to have forgotten what’s at stake.”

In Kyiv, Lord Cameron, the Foreign Secretary, is seen as having the potential to publicly champion Europe’s long-term support for Ukraine, while Mr Sunak takes a more “strategic” backseat role.

“You have a pretty charismatic minister of foreign affairs,” Ms Stefanishyna told the Telegraph. “He has a lot of energy and  could be the one speaking here and there, building the energy.

“But the Prime Minister is really expected to be strategic, to ensure the principles  of ‘as long as it takes’ are enshrined into multi-year support.”