UK promises more arms for Ukraine as Zelenskyy meets Sunak on European tour
LONDON (AP) — President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was in Britain Monday on his whirlwind European tour, as the staunch ally of Kyiv promised to give Ukraine hundreds more missiles and attack drones in an effort to change the course of the war.
Zelenskyy landed by helicopter at Chequers, the British leader's official country retreat, and was greeted by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. It’s Zelenskyy’s second trip to the U.K. since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
Zelenskyy thanked Britain for its support so far, and said his discussions with Sunak would cover “very important issues, urgent support for Ukraine”.
He said the war was a matter of “security not only for Ukraine, it is important for all of Europe."
Sunak told Zelenskyy that “your leadership, your country’s bravery and fortitude are an inspiration to us all.”
This is the fourth European country Zelenskky has visited in the past few days. He is seeking more aid as Ukraine prepares a long-anticipated spring offensive to retake territory seized by Russia.
Ukraine's leader made an unannounced visit to Paris on Sunday evening to meet French President Emmanuel Macron, after trips to Germany and Italy, where he met those countries' leaders and Pope Francis.
A message posted Monday on Zelenskyy's official Telegram Channel said: "Today — London. The UK is leading the way when it comes to expanding our capabilities on the ground and in the air. This cooperation will continue today. I will meet my friend Rishi. We will conduct substantive negotiations face-to-face and in delegations.”
The U.K. has become one of Ukraine's major military allies, sending Kyiv short-range missiles and Challenger tanks and training 15,000 Ukrainian troops on British soil. Last week Britain announced it had sent Ukraine Storm Shadow cruise missiles, which have a range of more than 250 kilometers (150 miles) — the first known shipment of the weaponry that Kyiv has long sought from its allies.
Sunak's office said that on Monday Britain would confirm it was giving Ukraine hundreds more air defense missiles, as well as “long-range attack drones" with a range of more than 200 kilometers (120 miles).
“This is a crucial moment in Ukraine’s resistance to a terrible war of aggression they did not choose or provoke," Sunak said. "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.”
Sunak will also push allies to deliver more support to Ukraine at a meeting of Group of Seven leaders in Japan later this week, Downing Street said.
As Zelenskyy visited European capitals, Russia stepped up attacks across Ukraine with drones and missiles over the weekend. On Sunday, Russia shelled two communities in the northern border region of Sumy, the region’s military administration said in a statement on its official Telegram channel. It said 109 explosions were recorded.
Zelenskyy and Macron met for about three hours on Sunday at the French presidential Elysee Palace — an encounter kept under wraps until shortly before the Ukrainian leader’s arrival in Paris.
Macron’s office said France would supply dozens of light tanks and armored vehicles “in the weeks ahead,” without giving specific numbers. Also promised were more air defense systems, but again details weren’t made public.
More Ukrainians will also be made battle-ready, with France aiming to train about 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers in France this year and nearly 4,000 others in Poland as part of a wider European effort, Macron’s office said.
France has supplied Ukraine with an array of weaponry, include air defense systems, light tanks, howitzers and other arms and equipment and fuel.
France had dispatched a plane to pick up Zelenskyy in Germany, where he met with Chancellor Olaf Scholz earlier Sunday and discussed his country’s planned counteroffensive.
It was his first visit to Berlin since the start of the invasion and came a day after the German government announced a new package of military aid for Ukraine worth more than 2.7 billion euros ($3 billion), including tanks, anti-aircraft systems and ammunition.
After initially hesitating to provide Ukraine with lethal weapons, Germany has become one of the biggest suppliers of arms to Ukraine, including Leopard 1 and 2 battle tanks, and the sophisticated IRIS-T SLM air defense system. Modern Western hardware is considered crucial if Ukraine is to succeed in its planned counteroffensive.
In the western German city of Aachen, Zelenskyy also received the prestigious International Charlemagne Prize, awarded to him and the people of Ukraine.
On Saturday. he met Francis and Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni in Rome.
On the European trip, Zelenskyy said Ukraine would aim to liberate Russian-occupied areas within Ukraine's internationally recognized borders, and not attack Russian territory.
The Washington Post cited previously undisclosed documents from a trove of U.S. intelligence leaks suggesting that Zelenskyy had considered trying to capture areas in Russia proper for possible use as bargaining chips in peace negotiations to end the war launched by Moscow. This would put him at odds with Western governments that have insisted that weapons they provide must not be used to attack targets in Russia.
Asked about the report, Zelenskyy said: “We don’t attack Russian territory, we liberate our own legitimate territory.”
“We have neither the time nor the strength (to attack Russia),” he said, according to an official interpreter. “And we also don’t have weapons to spare with which we could do this.
“We are preparing a counterattack for the illegally occupied areas based on our constitutionally defined legitimate borders, which are recognized internationally,” Zelenskyy said.
Among areas still occupied by Russia are the Crimean peninsula and parts of eastern Ukraine with mainly Russian-speaking populations.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
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