The UK will send anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine to help defend against Russian airstrikes, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has announced.
The Amraam rockets are the first donated by Britain that are capable of shooting down cruise missiles, but the UK is not providing the weapons that launch them. Instead, the rockets will help to arm air defence systems that will be given to Ukraine by the United States.
It is hoped the new air-defence missiles will help protect Ukrainian infrastructure after Moscow launched a wave of deadly missile and drone attacks on the country’s cities and power plants this week.
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine has lost all external power needed for vital safety systems on Wednesday for the second time in five days. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director-general Rafael Grossi said agency monitors at the power plant reported the interruption, adding that back-up diesel generators are keeping nuclear safety and security equipment operational.
Russia’s onslaught continued in the Zaporizhzhia region and eponymous city on Wednesday, shattering windows and blowing out doors in residential buildings, municipal council secretary Anatoliy Kurtev said.
The new clashes came two days after Russian forces began pummelling many parts of Ukraine with more missiles and munition-carrying drones, killing at least 19 people on Monday alone in an attack the UN human rights office described as “particularly shocking” and amounting to potential war crimes.
Vladimir Putin and his forces were subsequently accused of war crimes by the UK and G7 allies, who vowed to “continue to provide financial, humanitarian, military, diplomatic and legal support and… stand firmly with Ukraine for as long as it takes”.
The shift in the Kremlin’s strategy to attacks on civilian areas and infrastructure came in retaliation for an explosion that damaged the strategically and symbolically important Kerch Bridge, linking Russia to the annexed Crimean peninsula.
The Kerch Bridge is important to Russia strategically, as a military supply line to its forces in Ukraine, and symbolically, as an emblem of its claims on Crimea. Mr Putin called the bridge explosion a “terrorist act” masterminded by Ukrainian special services.
The UK and other western governments are now shipping new weapons systems to Ukraine or gearing up to provide more help.
The Amraam rockets will be delivered in the coming weeks to be used with the Nasams air-defence systems pledged by the United States, the Ministry of Defence said.
The latest package of UK equipment also includes hundreds of other air defence missiles and aerial drones, as well as a further 18 howitzer artillery guns.
Defence Secretary Mr Wallace said: “Russia’s latest indiscriminate strikes on civilian areas in Ukraine warrant further support to those seeking to defend their nation. So today I have authorised the supply of Amraam anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine.
“These weapons will help Ukraine defend its skies from attacks and strengthen their overall missile defence alongside the US Nasams.”
Nato defence ministers discussed additional support for Ukraine in Brussels on Wednesday, with further talks due on Thursday.
Britain will also give £10 million to the military alliance’s funding package to help provide humanitarian assistance to Ukraine including winter clothes, shelters, generators, fuel trucks and ambulances.
The UK has previously supplied Kyiv with various weapons, including the NLAW anti-tank missile launcher, which was considered instrumental in the initial defence against Moscow’s invasion.