Ukraine: Rishi Sunak to ‘double down’ on UK military support and supply longer-range weapons

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Rishi Sunak has been speaking at the Munich Security Conference in Germany

The UK will become the first country to provide Ukraine with “longer-range weapons,” Rishi Sunak has announced.

The Prime Minister also called for Russia to be “held to account” for war crimes committed during the conflict. Speaking at the Munich Security Conference today (18 February), Sunak told world leaders they must arm Ukraine now and set about boosting its long-term future against further Russian aggression.

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The UK gave £2.3 billion in support to Ukraine last year, and Sunak pledged to match or exceed that amount again this year. Sunak also met with German chancellor Olaf Scholz and raised similar points, with No 10 saying the PM and Scholz agreed “on the need to sustain the record level of international support for Ukraine”.

The Prime Minister, in a speech at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, had a twofold message for the West. Sunak said Ukraine needed military backing by allies to counter any spring offensive by Russian president Vladimir Putin’s troops. He also argued the West must also start to put in place the foundations to strengthen Kyiv’s security in the long term.

Sunak urges nations to “bolster” support for Ukraine

He told the Bavarian summit there was a need to “bolster” Kyiv’s armed forces immediately and to “double down” on the West’s backing for its defence against Russia’s invasion.

Sunak cited the provision of UK tanks and his administration’s decision to begin training Ukrainian pilots to fly Nato-standard fighter jets as an example of how Britain was playing its part.

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He also announced that the UK would start supplying longer-range weapons. He said: “Together we’re delivering as much equipment in the next few months as in the whole of 2022.

“And together we must help Ukraine to shield its cities from Russian bombs and Iranian drones. And that’s why the UK will be the first country to provide Ukraine with longer-range weapons.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attends a Q and A session after speaking at the Munich Security Conference in Germany. Picture: PAPrime Minister Rishi Sunak attends a Q and A session after speaking at the Munich Security Conference in Germany. Picture: PA
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attends a Q and A session after speaking at the Munich Security Conference in Germany. Picture: PA | PA

Sunak warns support is “not just about defending”

Sunak was asked by one audience member who served in the Ukrainian armed forces how the UK had helped Ukraine with “speed” and “leadership” where other nations have fallen behind. He replied: “I think we’re at an inflection point in the conflict whereby if we collectively – as the UK has tried to lead in doing – step up our support to Ukraine at this moment … Ukraine will have the ability to gain a decisive advantage on the battlefield.

“It can’t just be about defending, we’ve got to be able to provide Ukraine with the means to fight back.” With one eye on the Nato summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, in July, he urged other Western leaders to commit to providing “Nato capabilities” for Ukraine’s armed forces to secure its borders for the future.

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Sunak told the summit: “Our collective efforts are making a difference but with every day that passes, Russian forces inflict yet more pain and suffering. Now the only way to change that is for Ukraine to win.”

He added: “We need to do more to boost Ukraine’s long-term security. We must give them the advanced, Nato-standard capabilities that they need for the future. And we must demonstrate that we’ll remain by their side, willing and able to help them defend their country again and again.”

Sunak also said securing a lasting peace would mean “upholding international law” and making Moscow pay reparations to Kyiv. He accused Russian forces of committing “sickening war crimes” in a number of Ukrainian cities, and said it must be held accountable through the International Criminal Court.

“Seize” moment to defeat Russia, Sunak says

Taking questions after his speech, Sunak urged allies to “seize” the moment to help ensure Moscow is defeated. He said Ukraine needed the “means to fight back” and that upping support, something he said the UK had taken a lead on, would allow Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky’s forces to gain a “decisive advantage on the battlefield”.

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The Prime Minister added: “That would be my pitch to everyone … is do what we are doing, join the countries that are providing that support, intensifying and accelerating it now … I think the alternative is far worse. We are all united in wanting Ukraine to win and if there’s an opportunity to do that sooner, and take advantage of the moment that we have, why would we not seize it? What are we waiting for?”

He argued that the “security guarantees, the architecture that was in place before this war has failed Ukraine” and called for Nato’s approach to threats to be reviewed at its summit in the summer. Others to speak at the summit on Saturday included US vice-president Kamala Harris and Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg.

Before his speech, Sunak held bilateral talks with German chancellor Olaf Scholz and will later speak with Ms Harris, along with the leaders of Poland, Sweden and Finland. According to No 10, the Prime Minister “stressed the need for allies to think not just about securing peace in the short term, but about strengthening Ukraine’s long-term defences” during his conversation with Scholz.

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