British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak makes surprise trip to Kyiv and bolsters air defenses

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak makes surprise trip to Kyiv and bolsters air defenses
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KYIV, Ukraine – British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged 125 anti-aircraft guns and other air defense technology during his unannounced visit on Saturday – his first – to the wartime snow-covered Ukrainian capital for talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The air defense package, which Britain has valued at 50 million pounds ($60 million), comes as Russia hammers Ukraine’s power grid and other key infrastructure from the air, causing widespread blackouts for millions of Ukrainians in freezing weather.

The package includes radar and other technology to counter Iranian-supplied explosive drones that Russia has used against Ukrainian targets. It comes on top of a delivery of more than 1,000 anti-aircraft missiles announced by Britain earlier this month.

The UK has been one of the strongest Western supporters of Ukrainian resistance to the Russian invasion, granting Kyiv 2.3 billion pounds ($2.7 billion) in military aid. Zelenskyy described the two countries as “the strongest of allies”.

The video Zelenskyy posted showed him greeting Sunak at a presidential palace as snowflakes fell and the pair chatted.

“With friends like you by our side, we are confident in our victory. Both our nations know what it means to defend freedom,” the Ukrainian leader said on Twitter.

PHOTOS: British Prime Minister Sunak on surprise trip to Ukraine, meets Zelenskyy

Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who resigned in July amid ethics scandals, has won widespread praise in Ukraine for his support and has made repeated visits to Kyiv. Sunak is keen to reassure Ukraine’s leaders that there will be no change in stance under his leadership, even though when he was Britain’s Treasury chief under Johnson he was seen as resistant to demands for increased funding. defense spending.

“The courage of the Ukrainian people is an inspiration to the world,” Sunak said in comments alongside Zelenskyy at the presidential palace. “In the years to come, we will tell your story to our grandchildren.”

He promised that Britain “will stand with you until Ukraine has achieved the peace and security it needs and deserves, and then we will be with you as you rebuild your big country”.

Sunak also laid flowers at a memorial for the war dead, lit a candle at a memorial for the victims of a deadly Soviet-era famine in Ukraine in the 1930s, and met with first responders at a barracks in firefighters, his office said.

Sunak said it was “deeply humbling” to visit Kyiv “and to have the opportunity to meet those who do so much and pay such a high price to uphold the principles of sovereignty and democracy.”

On the battlefield, Russian forces have launched 10 airstrikes, 10 missile strikes and 42 rocket attacks on Ukraine over the past day, the Ukrainian Armed Forces General Staff announced on Saturday.

Russia is launching an offensive in the eastern region of Donetsk, and Ukraine has reported heavy fighting around the city of Bakhmut, the town of Avdiivka and the village of Novopavlivka.

Russian forces claimed to have repelled a Ukrainian counteroffensive to retake the settlements of Pershotravneve, Kyslivka and Krokhmalne in Kharkiv province in northeastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian forces said they killed or injured dozens of Russian soldiers in an attack on the village of Mykhailivka in the southern Kherson region, and the wounded were taken to hospitals in Crimea. The claim could not be independently verified.

Ukrainian forces also reported carrying out deadly strikes on the Kinburn Spit in Mykolaiv province in southern Ukraine, a key site for Russian electronic warfare.

Russia continued its strikes on critical infrastructure, with a rocket attack overnight sparking a fire at a key industrial facility in the Zaporizhzhia region of southern Ukraine, according to the region’s chief. Some areas of the regional capital of Zaporizhzhia were left without heating.

The head of Ukraine’s largest private energy company told the BBC that Ukrainians who can afford it should consider leaving the country to relieve pressure on its war-damaged electricity system.

“If they can find another place to stay for another three or four months, that will be very helpful to the system,” said Maxim Timchenko, managing director of DTEK. “If you consume less, then hospitals with wounded soldiers will have a guaranteed power supply.”

In Poland, a funeral was held on Saturday for one of the two men who died when a missile landed there this week, according to the state news agency PAP.

NATO member Poland and the military alliance chief both said the missile strike in an eastern farming region appeared unintentional and was likely launched by air defenses in neighboring Ukraine . Russia bombed Ukraine at the time in an attack that trashed its power grid.

Britain’s Ministry of Defense noted on Saturday that Russia carried out its biggest-ever debt issuance in a single day on Wednesday, raising $13.6 billion. He said issuing debt is a key mechanism to support defense spending, which has increased significantly in Russia since its invasion of Ukraine in February.


Elise Morton in London contributed to this story.


Follow all AP stories about the war in Ukraine at

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