Rishi Sunak: UK will support allies who have fighter jets ready to send to Ukraine

Global Security Editor Rohit Kachroo breaks down Rishi Sunak's speech at the Munich Security Conference

The prime minister said the UK “stands ready” to support allies who have fighter jets ready to hand over to Ukraine immediately.

Rishi Sunak made the comments after undertaking a diplomatic blitz in Munich on Saturday as he looked to shore up support for Kyiv.

The UK has refused to commit to providing Royal Air Force aircraft to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky’s forces, with the prime minister only saying he has not ruled it out.

But the Conservative Party leader said he would back allies who are in a position to supply war planes now.

Mr Sunak told broadcasters: “We will happily provide assistance to any country that is able to provide Ukraine with fighter jets right now.

Europe Editor James Mates reports from Chernihiv in Ukraine - just a few miles from a crucial dividing line with Belarus

"The UK stands ready to support those countries as well.”

The Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki reportedly told the Munich Security Conference on Saturday that Warsaw wanted to discuss transferring its Soviet-era MiG fighter jets, as part of a wider coalition led by the US. Mr Sunak, asked whether he had spoken to Mr Morawiecki about providing his MiGs to Ukraine during discussions on the fringes of the summit, said: “What I’ve done is said to all allies that we stand ready to support them if they can provide fighter jets for Ukraine now.”

When asked by ITV News whether he thought the UK would eventually deliver planes to his country, Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said: "Ukraine will receive planes. It’s a matter of time and procedure. It will take more time than tanks, we understand that, but the very kind of logic, the kind of sense of how the situation evolves, will take all of us to the decision on planes."

Global Security Editor Rohit Kachroo asks Ukraine's foreign minister whether he believes the UK will eventually send fighter jets

Earlier at the Munich Security Conference, Mr Sunak called on European and Nato allies to "double down" on its military support for Ukraine to enable a "decisive advantage" on the battlefield against Russia.

He said he believes the war has reached an "inflection point" where, with enough help, Kyiv can turn things around.

The prime minister said the UK will be the first country to provide Ukraine with long-range weapons and said it is "entirely reasonable" for other Nato countries to do the same.

The prime minister welcomes Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at Downing Street last week. Credit: AP

Calling on the West to provide more tanks, air defence and artillery, he said: “Those are all the things that will allow Ukraine to defend itself and repel Russian aggression.

“And, indeed, yes, to have a counter-offensive that moves Russia outside of its own country.

"I think that’s entirely reasonable and we should be fully behind Ukraine in that ambition, and want that ambition to succeed.”

UK prime minister Rishi Sunak shakes hands with US vice president Kamala Harris as they meet at the Munich Security Conference. Credit: AP

At the same summit, US vice president Kamala Harris said her nation has determined that Russia has committed crimes against humanity in Ukraine.

“Russian forces have pursued a widespread and systemic attack against a civilian population - gruesome acts of murder, torture, rape, and deportation,” Ms Harris said. She also cited “execution-style killings, beatings, and electrocution”.

The Biden administration formally determined last March that Russian troops had committed war crimes in Ukraine and said it would work with others to prosecute offenders.

A determination of crimes against humanity goes a step further, indicating that attacks against civilians are being carried out in a widespread and systematic manner.

Last week, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited Britain, Paris and Brussels to make the case for the West to send fighter planes for his air force.

To coincide with the war leader’s momentous trip, the UK announced it would extend its training mission – which has already seen 10,000 Ukrainian troops come to the UK – to cover fighter jet pilots, ensuring Ukraine can defend its skies using “Nato tactics” in the future.

The training of pilots is expected to commence in the spring, according to Downing Street officials.

On the fringes of the summit, Mr Sunak met US vice-president Kamala Harris and German chancellor Olaf Scholz, along with Mr Morawiecki. No 10 said Mr Sunak and Mr Morawiecki had “discussed working with allies to provide further strategic military support to Ukraine’s defence”. The prime minister also held talks with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, with Mr Sunak broaching the topics of Ukraine and a fix for the Northern Ireland Protocol with the Brussels leader.

The prime minister's visit to Germany comes as some in Ukraine suggest a spring-time offensive by Russia's forces has already begun along parts of the eastern frontline.

In the last year, No 10 officials said £2.3 billion of UK military support to Ukraine has provided a squadron of Challenger 2 tanks, 200 other armoured vehicles and more than 10,000 anti-tank missiles and multiple-launch rocket systems.

The prime minister said he is committed to matching or exceeding that level of support this year.

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