Zelensky welcomes £500m UK military aid package for Ukraine

Rishi Sunak has discussed air defence with Volodymyr Zelensky as the Ukrainian president welcomed a record military package from the UK including long-range missiles, armoured vehicles and boats.

Mr Zelensky, who spoke to the Prime Minister on Tuesday morning, said “all of this is needed on the battlefield”.

The Prime Minister announced the £500 million in military aid as he travelled to Warsaw and Berlin to meet the leaders of Poland, Germany and Nato.

On the flight to Warsaw, Mr Sunak told reporters: “I’d agree that air defence is one of the critical areas where Ukraine needs support.”

“He (Mr Zelensky) and I were talking about air defence this morning. We’ve consistently provided air defence support to Ukraine from the very beginning.”

He said the two leaders also spoke about “the importance of long-range” weapons and talked through having “the right priorities and focus” at the upcoming Nato and European Political Community summits.

Mr Sunak said Mr Zelensky was “in good spirits”, “very positive” about the renewed US support and “very grateful” for UK help.

The Prime Minister also stressed the importance of Europeans investing in their own security and Nato countries reaching their 2% defence spending commitment.

He said the news that the US House of Representatives ended a months-long stalemate by approving a critical 61 billion US dollar (£49 billion) aid package for Ukraine was “very welcome”, but added “that doesn’t take away from the need for Europeans to invest in their security”.

Russian invasion of Ukraine
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak with President Volodymyr Zelensky during a visit to Kyiv in January (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Mr Sunak warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin “will not stop at the Polish border” if his assault on Ukraine is allowed to succeed.

Mr Zelensky welcomed what he said was the “largest defence support package for Ukraine to date” from the UK.

“Storm Shadow and other missiles, hundreds of armoured vehicles and watercraft, ammunition – all of this is needed on the battlefield,” he said.

“I am grateful to the UK and personally to Prime Minister Sunak for such a strong demonstration of support and for the willingness to further develop our defence co-operation, especially with an emphasis on maritime and long-range capabilities.”

Mr Sunak will talk defence and security with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Warsaw.

The Prime Minister is accompanied by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Defence Secretary Grant Shapps on his tour of European capitals.

Mr Sunak will then travel to Germany to hold one-to-one talks with Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Wednesday.

Sunak and Scholz
Rishi Sunak met Olaf Scholz at the European Political Community summit in Spain in October (Thomas Coex/PA)

The £500 million for Ukraine will fund ammunition, air defence and UK-procured drones, as well as supporting engineering and the ramping up of domestic defence supply chains, Downing Street said.

It is new money from the Treasury reserve and not from existing Ministry of Defence budgets, according to No 10.

The uplift takes UK military funding for Kyiv to £3 billion in 2024/25, and to £7.6 billion since the start of Mr Putin’s full-scale invasion in 2022.

The promised equipment includes around 400 vehicles, more than 1,600 strike and air defence missiles, 60 boats and nearly four million rounds of small arms ammunition.

The weaponry will be delivered “as quickly as possible” in response to “specific asks from the Ukrainian government and armed forces” at a time when Kyiv “faces a difficult summer as Russia continues to ramp up its barbaric assault”, Mr Sunak’s official spokesman said.

In his first in-person meeting with his Polish counterpart Mr Tusk, the Prime Minister will seek to strengthen security, trade and diplomatic links with Warsaw.

He will offer to deploy an RAF Typhoon squadron next year to carry out Nato air policing over Poland, where around 400 British troops are stationed full-time.