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Rishi Sunak vows full support for Ukraine ‘until they prevail’ as war enters third year

UK political leaders are marking the second anniversary of the war in Ukraine by vowing to stand with Kyiv “until they prevail”.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said “tyranny will never triumph” as President Volodymyr Zelensky’s troops defend the country against an emboldened Russia.

Mr Sunak said the UK is “going further in our support”, and Britain is prepared to do “whatever it takes, for as long as it takes”.

Saturday marks two years since the Kremlin launched its attack on Ukraine, starting the biggest incursion in a European country since the Second World War.

Russian president Vladimir Putin’s conflict has killed more than 10,000 civilians and wounded 20,000 others, according to the United Nations.

In November, a Ukrainian civic group confirmed the deaths of 24,500 soldiers with 15,000 listed as missing likely dead.

The cost of reconstruction is likely to run into hundreds of billions of dollars.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Mr Sunak, who visited Kyiv last month to sign a new security agreement and announce an increase in military funding for the country, said: “When Putin launched his illegal invasion two years ago, the free world was united in its response.

“We stood together behind Ukraine. And on this grim anniversary, we must renew our determination.

“I was in Kyiv just a few weeks ago and I met wounded Ukrainian soldiers. Each harrowing story was a reminder of Ukraine’s courage in the face of terrible suffering.

“It was a reminder of the price they are paying not only to defend their country against a completely unjustified invasion, but also to defend the very principles of freedom, sovereignty and the rule of law on which we all depend.”

He added: “This is the moment to show that tyranny will never triumph and to say once again that we will stand with Ukraine today and tomorrow.

Damaged city hall in Kharkiv two years apart (AFP via Getty Images)
Damaged city hall in Kharkiv two years apart (AFP via Getty Images)

“We are prepared to do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, until they prevail.”

In a video message, Mr Zelensky thanked everyone in the world helping to defend Ukraine and its people.

He said in a post on X, formerly Twitter: “No one in the world has the right to destroy independent nations. No one. And we will not let Russia destroy Ukraine.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who hopes to enter Number 10 after the general election this year, said Britain would always support Ukraine “no matter who is in power in this country” and said Putin’s “cowardice and barbarity” will not win.

Sir Keir said: “The resistance of the Ukrainian people has inspired and humbled the world. The UK and our allies will stand in solidarity with them until their day of victory.

“We will not waver. We will not abandon them. We will not be divided in the face of tyranny or oppression.

“We look together to the day when Ukraine secures justice and liberty in their rightful homeland, when Ukrainians can return home and rebuild their great country, and live peacefully, freely and proudly.”

Lychakiv cemetery in Lviv in February 2022 and this month (AFP via Getty Images)
Lychakiv cemetery in Lviv in February 2022 and this month (AFP via Getty Images)

European countries are struggling to find enough stock to send to Kyiv. US help worth 60 billion US dollars (£47 billon) is stalled over political differences in Washington.

Ukrainian forces withdrew from the strategic eastern city of Avdiivka at the weekend, where they had battled a fierce Russian assault for four months despite being heavily outnumbered and outgunned.

Kyiv has kept up strikes behind the 930-mile front line but moved to a defensive posture amid critical shortages on the battlefield.

Separately, the US has announced more than 500 new sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine and the death of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

These include measures against its main card payment system, financial and military institutions, and officials involved in Mr Navalny’s imprisonment.

The EU has also announced new sanctions on access to military technology.

US President Joe Biden, who met Mr Navalny’s widow and daughter in San Francisco on Thursday, said there can be “no doubt” Putin was to blame for his death.

But the sanctions are unlikely to have an impact on Russia’s economy.

Banks and military industrial firm have adapted and developed workarounds to evade existing restrictions.

Lord David Cameron warned the UN against “fatigue” and “compromise” over Russia’s war in Ukraine on Friday evening.

The Foreign Secretary urged allies to keep up support for Kyiv, saying the world must “recognise the cost of giving up” in a speech in New York on the eve of the second anniversary.

Victory for dictator Putin would not end with Ukraine, Lord Cameron said.

Families flee Kramatorsk central station two years ago and same transport hub on January 25, 2024 (AFP via Getty Images)
Families flee Kramatorsk central station two years ago and same transport hub on January 25, 2024 (AFP via Getty Images)

“Putin could easily apply his distortions of history elsewhere, such as Moldova or the Baltic States,” he told allies.

“And others will be emboldened to turn to fighting when it suits them. No country with a large, aggressive neighbour would be safe.”

Lord Cameron called earlier this month for US lawmakers to pass a bill including support for Ukraine, likening any refusal to do so with appeasement of Hitler in the 1930s.

The intervention drew the ire of right-wing congresswoman and Donald Trump ally Marjorie Taylor Greene, who told him to “kiss my ass” and “worry about his own country”.