British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced additional support for Ukraine after a surprise visit from President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Zelensky is on a multi-stop tour of Europe, asking for support in Rome, Berlin and Paris as his country continues its battle with Russia.
“This is a crucial moment in Ukraine’s resistance to a terrible war of aggression they did not choose or provoke,” said Sunak after the meeting, per The Hill. “They need the sustained support of the international community to defend against the barrage of unrelenting and indiscriminate attacks that have been their daily reality for over a year.”
“We must not let them down. The frontlines of [Russian President Vladimir Putin]’s war of aggression may be in Ukraine but the fault lines stretch all over the world,” the prime minister added. “It is in all our interest to ensure Ukraine succeeds and Putin’s barbarism is not rewarded.”
Sunak and Zelensky met for two hours in Chequers, the prime minister’s country estate about 30 miles from London, on May 15. Sunak tweeted a photo embracing Zelensky with the caption, “Welcome back.” The two later posed for photos inside Chequers in front of the flags of the United Kingdom and Ukraine.
Welcome back, @ZelenskyyUa 🇬🇧🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/ph57ZoUHpC
— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) May 15, 2023
“We spoke about it and I see that in the closest time you will hear some, I think, very important decisions, but we have to work a little bit more on it,” Zelensky told reporters afterward.
The British government has agreed to send hundreds of long-range missiles and armed drones. The United Kingdom agreed to the transfer of Storm Shadow cruise missiles, which have a range of 155 miles, on May 11.
Zelensky has continued to request that Western countries supply Ukraine with fighter jets, in theory, in preparation for a large-scale attack from Russia. Sunak said meeting this request was “not a straightforward thing.”
According to the BBC, several “delays and obfuscations” have prevented NATO from meeting Zelensky’s request.
The outlet notes:
The Ukrainian air force has trained its pilots on F-16s, which the RAF do not use, but such training takes months, not days. Logistics, maintenance and the need to find suitable runways are all important too. Finally, there is the question of escalation. Nato is struggling to balance giving Kyiv the maximum support it can, without getting directly drawn into this conflict.
If Nato does end up sending F-16 warplanes, however old they may be, then that, in Moscow’s eyes, constitutes a major provocation by the West.
The threat of a large-scale Russian offensive may have passed as the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine reported on May 15 that Russian forces are no longer capable of such an attack, per CNN. In a televised address, Ukranian Defense Intelligence spokesperson Andriy Yusov said Russia “is on the defensive” and does not have the resources to “repeat large-scale offensive actions.”
“They have been preparing for defense all this time, and this is a serious factor that the Ukrainian command certainly takes into account when preparing for the de-occupation of Ukrainian territories,” said Yusov.
The Russian government responded to the news of the additional British support by warning that the weapons will only cause “further destruction.”
“Britain aspires to position itself at the forefront of the countries that continue to pump weapons into Ukraine,” said Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Kremlin, per the BBC.