Rishi Sunak has met with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenksy for the first time since becoming Prime Minister.
Sunak said he was “humbled” to be in the capital city Kyiv in his first face-to-face meeting with Zelensky and pledged to continue British support to the war-torn country in the fight against Russia.
A No 10 spokesperson confirmed his arrival, saying: "The Prime Minister is in Ukraine today for his first visit to Kyiv to meet President Zelensky and confirm continued UK support.”
During the meeting, Sunak said the UK would provide a £50 million package of defence aid comprising 125 anti-aircraft guns and technology to help Ukraine counter Iranian-supplied drones, including radars and anti-drone technology.
Ukraine has been requesting assistance from Western nations over recent months in the wake of Russian aerial attacks on Kyiv and across the country.
A video of the meeting, posted by Sunak’s Twitter account, shows him shaking hands with the Ukrainian leader in a snowy Kyiv. “Welcome. How are you?” Zelensky asks the Prime Minister. “Really good to see you,” Sunak says as the Ukrainian President gestures at the falling snow. The pair are shown shaking hands in front of the Union flag and Ukraine’s flag, with the pair also shown holding a one-to-one meeting.
During the visit, Sunak also confirmed £12 million for the World Food Programme’s response to Ukraine, as well as £4 million for the International Organisation for Migration, ahead of what is expected to be a long winter for the country.
Downing Street said the funding would help provide generators, shelter, water repairs and mobile health clinics, with the UK also sending tens of thousands of extreme cold winter kits for Ukrainian troops.
Zelensky wrote on Telegram following the meeting: “We discussed the most important issues both for our countries and for global security. We are stronger and we will achieve the desired results.”
The Prime Minister’s visit came after a week that saw tensions between the West and Russia ratchet up, after a missile hit a Polish village close to the Ukrainian border and sparked concerns Russia had struck a Nato member state.
Tensions have eased since by the likely attribution of the hit to Ukrainian defence forces, but Russian missile strikes on the country have shown no sign of relenting.
In Kyiv, Sunak laid flowers at a memorial for the war dead and lit a candle at a memorial for victims of the Holodomor famine, before meeting emergency personnel at a fire station. He described being in Kyiv as “deeply humbling” and said he was “proud” of how the UK had backed Ukraine since the beginning of the war.
“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,” he said. “While Ukraine’s armed forces succeed in pushing back Russian forces on the ground, civilians are being brutally bombarded from the air.
“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. 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.”
Zelensky tweeted his thanks to Sunak following the meeting, saying: “With friends like you by our side, we are confident in our victory. Both of our nations know what it means to stand up for freedom.” Sunak’s vocal support sees him follow in the footsteps of his predecessors Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.
The Prime Minister, who has spoken to Mr Zelensky on more than one occasion since entering Downing Street, used his appearance at the G20 this week to join allies and other Western leaders to condemn Vladimir Putin’s invasion.