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UK Pledges Long-Range Attack Drones and Air Defence Missiles to Ukraine

UK Pledges Long-Range Attack Drones and Air Defence Missiles to Ukraine

Britain will provide Ukraine with long-range attack drones and air defence missiles, Downing Street has announced.

The announcement came during a surprise visit by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday, during which he held talks with Rishi Sunak at Chequers, the prime minister’s grace-and-favour residence in Buckinghamshire.

This is the latest stop on Zelenskyy’s tour of European capitals, during which he has been meeting Western leaders seeking to bolster support for Ukraine ahead of an expected counter-offensive.

The latest package of British military assistance includes hundreds of air defence missiles and further unmanned aerial systems including long-range attack drones with a range of more than 120 miles.

The new equipment will be delivered over the coming months.

A member of the military walks past a MBDA Storm Shadow/Scalp missile at the Farnborough Airshow, southwest of London, on July 17, 2018. (Ben Stansall/AFP via Getty Images)

The UK has also recently promised long-range Storm Shadow cruise missiles to Kyiv.

The Kremlin on Monday said Russia takes an “extremely negative” view of Britain’s decision to supply Ukraine with more military hardware but does not believe London’s help will change the course of the conflict.

“Britain aspires to be at the forefront among countries that continue to pump weapons into Ukraine,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

“We repeat once again, it cannot yield any drastic and fundamental influence on the way the special military operation is unfolding.”

‘Jets Coalition’

Talking to broadcasters after the meeting, Zelenskyy said the two leaders had also discussed Western fighter jets.

He said: “Today we spoke about the jets. Very important topic for us because we can’t control the sky.”

“We want to create this jets coalition and I’m very positive with it,” he said. “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.”

The prime minister stressed that the provision of warplanes is “not a straightforward thing” but said the UK is committed to training Ukrainian pilots to use NATO-standard aircraft.

No. 10 said an elementary flying phase for cohorts of Ukrainian pilots will begin this summer, but there are “no plans” to supply Ukraine with the Typhoon or F-35 jets operated by the UK, as Kyiv has identified the more widely-used F-16 as its fighter plane of choice.

“The Ukrainian government has made the decision to train their pilots on F-16 jets, that’s a decision for them,” the prime minister’s official spokesman said. “Obviously, I believe, they are in discussions with other countries who use those jets and we are working with those countries.”

NATO Membership

The Ukrainian president also on Monday issued a new appeal for NATO membership, calling for a political decision at the Western alliance’s summit in July in Vilnius.

“It is time to remove the biggest security uncertainty in Europe—that is, to approve a positive political decision on (Ukrainian) membership in NATO,” he said in a video address to the Copenhagen Democracy Summit. “This is worth doing at the July summit already. This will be a timely signal.”

During his European tour, Zelenskyy has already secured more pledges of advanced weaponry from NATO countries.

Germany announced 2.7 billion euros (£2.35 billion) in military aid to Ukraine on Saturday, its biggest such package since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion in February last year, and pledged further support for Kyiv for as long as necessary.

On Sunday, France said it will send dozens of armoured vehicles and light tanks, including the AMX-10RC fighting vehicles, to Ukraine in the coming weeks.

PA Media and Reuters contributed to this report.

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