As a surprise visit, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reached Kiev on Saturday and met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky while also announcing a £50 million military package for the country.

“We are today providing new air defence, including anti-aircraft guns, radar and anti-drone equipment, and stepping up humanitarian support for the cold, hard winter ahead,” said Sunak.

He said the UK would provide a £50 million package of defence aid to Ukraine. It will comprise 125 anti-aircraft guns and technology to counter deadly Iranian-supplied drones, including dozens of radars and anti-drone electronic warfare capability.

It follows more than 1,000 new anti-air missiles announced by the Defence Secretary earlier this month.

Sunak was greeted outside the presidential palace by the Ukrainian leader with the two leaders can be seen having an animated discussion and smiling before sitting down for a meeting with staff, including the head of the general staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

The visit was Sunak’s first to Kyiv since taking office. It follows an invitation in October amid Russian accusations Ukraine was preparing to launch a “dirty bomb” attack.

“Since the first days of the war, Ukraine and the UK have been the strongest of allies,” Zelensky said in a Facebook post.

“During today’s meeting, we discussed the most important issues both for our countries and for global security.”

Separately, it was announced that the UK Export Finance would support an initial eight construction projects that were identified in collaboration with the government of Ukraine.

The projects will help repair Ukraine’s critical infrastructure and lay the foundations for economic recovery, Downing Street said. They include six bridges and two housing projects, including a development in Bucha for some 2,250 residents.

Bucha, a city just outside Kyiv, suffered a massacre in the first few weeks of the war and residential buildings were heavily damaged.

Meanwhile, the Downing Street also said that the prime minister was confirming £12 million for the World Food Programme’s response and £4 million for the International Organisation for Migration, in recognition of the fact “that Ukrainians face a very difficult winter, with widespread blackouts [and] destruction of homes, schools and hospitals”. The funding will help provide generators, shelter, water repairs and mobile health clinics, it said.

Sunak said he was proud of the UK’s support for Ukraine from the start of the war. “I am proud of how the UK stood with Ukraine from the very beginning,” he said. “And I am here today to say the UK and our allies will continue to stand with Ukraine, as it fights to end this barbarous war and deliver a just peace.”

“While Ukraine’s armed forces succeed in pushing back Russian forces on the ground, civilians are being brutally bombarded from the air,” he said, as he announced new aid.

Having heard from Ukraine’s leaders and first responders he added: “It is deeply humbling to be in Kyiv today and to have the opportunity to meet those who are doing so much, and paying so high a price, to defend the principles of sovereignty and democracy.”

Sunak laid flowers at a memorial for the war dead in Kyiv and lit a candle at a memorial for victims of the Holodomor famine.

He also met first responders at a fire station. The team of emergency responders described their harrowing work rescuing survivors from the rubble and fighting fires in the aftermath of Russian airstrikes and mortar attacks.

In addition, he saw captured Iranian-made drones which have been used to target and bomb civilians in recent months.


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