Ukraine war anniversary: Rishi Sunak urges West to move faster on arming Kyiv
Rishi Sunak is to urge fellow world leaders to “move faster” in arming Ukraine on the one-year anniversary of Russia launching its invasion.
Friday marks 12 months since Vladimir Putin started his unprovoked war. The conflict - the most significant war in Europe since World War Two - has already left tens of thousands of people dead, devastated Ukraine’s infrastructure system and damaged the global economy.
The Prime Minister is due to use a G7 meeting on the anniversary to urge allies to supply longer-range weapons to Ukraine to defend itself, stressing the urgent need for Kyiv to gain a “decisive advantage” on the battlefield to end the war.
“For Ukraine to win this war - and to accelerate that day - they must gain a decisive advantage on the battlefield. That is what it will take to shift Putin’s mindset. This must be our priority now. Instead of an incremental approach, we need to move faster on artillery, armour, and air defence,” Mr Sunak is set to tell G7 leaders in a virtual meeting.
“The coming weeks will be difficult for Ukraine, but they will also be difficult for Russia. They are over-reaching once again. So now is the time to support Ukraine’s plan to re-arm, regroup, and push forward.”
Mr Sunak, who will host members of the Ukrainian armed forces in Downing Street as well as ambassador Vadym Prystaiko, will also reiterate his offer of UK support to countries able to provide jets to Ukraine.
The UK is a prominent supporter of Kyiv and President Volodymyr Zelensky, with Mr Sunak announcing earlier this year that Britain would be the first country to supply tanks to its armed forces. Other Western nations have also promised tanks and other heavy weapons.
But Mr Zelensky has urged more support including fighter jets but this call has so far been met with reluctance by western allies amid fears of escalating the conflict, although the UK has announced training for Ukrainian pilots on Nato-standard jets.
Pressure was ramped up on the PM to do more on jets on Thursday when Boris Johnson said the UK should “break the ice” and send RAF Typhoons to the government in Kyiv.
In an interview with Sky News, Mr Johnson said: “What the Ukrainians want is F16s. We don’t have F16s. We do have Typhoons. I think there is an argument for the UK breaking the ice and giving them some Typhoons.”
As part of events to mark the anniversary on Friday the UK will hold a national minute’s silence. The Prime Minister, with his wife Akshata Murty, is also expected to hang a blue and yellow wreath on the door of No 10.
On Thursday evening a vigil was held in Trafalgar Square. Events were held around the world, with the Eiffel Tower lit in blue to show solidarity for the people of Ukraine.
“As we mark one year since a full-scale war broke out on our continent, I urge everyone to reflect on the courage and bravery of our Ukrainian friends who, every hour since, have fought heroically for their country”, Mr Sunak said.
“I am proud that the UK has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Ukraine through this horrific conflict. As I stand with brave Ukrainian soldiers outside Downing Street today, my thoughts will be with all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend freedom and return peace to Europe.”
Iconic images from Russia Ukraine Crisis
The US government will announce “sweeping” new sanctions against Russia on Friday “against key sectors that generate revenue” for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
President Joe Biden’s press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that the US president will also meet virtually with his Ukrainian counterpart Mr Zelensky as well as the G7 leaders.
European Union countries on Thursday failed to agree on a new set of sanctions, missing a planned deadline to have them in place for the one-year anniversary. Representatives of the member states were due to meet again at 9am on Friday to try seal a deal, according to sources.
The UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly for a resolution calling for Russia to end hostilities and withdraw from Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visit to UK
Ukrainian President Zelensky said his country “will prevail” as he mourned “all the terror, all the killings” ahead of the first anniversary.
Mr Zelensky took to Telegram on Thursday to reflect on the impact of war, saying the memories will “leave deep scars in your heart and soul”.
He said: “They remind us of the path we have gone [on] from February to February.We have overcome many ordeals and we will prevail.
“We will hold to account all those who brought this evil, this war to our land. All the terror, all the killings, all the torture, all the looting.
Earlier the Nato secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said the alliance had seen signs that China was considering supplying arms to Russia and warned Beijing against taking any such step.
The announcement came days after the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, warned China of consequences if it provided material support to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Mr Stoltenberg said the war in Ukraine must bring an end to “a cycle of Russian aggression” that goes back much further than the invasion Moscow launched a year ago.
In an interview with Reuters , Mr Stoltenberg said the invasion was part of a pattern that included Russian military action in Georgia in 2008 and Donbas and Crimea in Ukraine in 2014.
“We don’t know when the war will end. But what we do know is that when the war ends, we need to ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself,” he said.
“We need to ensure that we break the cycle of Russian aggression. We need to prevent Russia from chipping away at European security,” he told Reuters.
China told the United Nations on Thursday that one year into the Ukraine war “brutal facts offer an ample proof that sending weapons will not bring peace,” just days after the United States and NATO warned Beijing against giving Russia military support.
“Adding fuel to the fire will only exacerbate tensions. Prolonging and expanding the conflict will only make ordinary people pay an even heftier price,” China’s deputy UN Ambassador Dai Bing told the UN General Assembly.