'The UK stands with Ukraine': Sunak announces £2.5bn military aid package on surprise visit to Kyiv

'We will stand with Ukraine, in their darkest hours and in the better times to come,' Prime Minster Rishi Sunak pledged ahead of his meeting with President Zelenskyy

Rishi Sunak called out Vladamir Putin as he announced the UK will provide £2.5 billion in military aid to Ukraine over the coming year.

The prime minister told the Russian leader "we’re not going anywhere," during a surprise trip to Kyiv on Friday. Mr Sunak is meeting Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky, as part of the visit.

It comes as the Ukrainian president presses allies in the West to provide the country with more support to fight back against Russian forces, amid fears interest in the war is flagging among allies.

The crisis in the Middle East, as Israel continues to bombard Gaza, has also turned global attention away from the battle against Vladimir Putin.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, Major General Gwyn Jenkins. Credit: AP

Mr Sunak stressed the UK’s continued backing for Kyiv ahead of his meeting with President Zelenskyy, which comes hours after UK and US forces launched strikes against targets used by Houthi rebels in Yemen.

“We are one of Ukraine’s most significant supporters, particularly when it comes to providing military aid,” Mr Sunak told broadcasters in Kyiv.

“I’m pleased to be here today to announce an increase in the aid that we’re providing.

“The aid that we’ve got in place already runs through to the early part of this year.

“So we’re acting in advance of that expiring with a new commitment of two and a half billion pounds – more than we’ve provided in previous years.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak talks to firefighters in Kyiv, Ukraine. Credit: AP

“That represents the seriousness of the situation here and our determination to stand with Ukraine.

“And that’s why I’m here on my first foreign visit of this year, the first foreign leader to visit Ukraine this year.”

He said he wanted “to send a strong signal of support to the Ukrainian people, but also a strong signal of support that Vladimir Putin needs to recognise we’re not going anywhere”.

“I’m here with one clear message.

“The United Kingdom stands with Ukraine.”

Mr Sunak made his first visit to Ukraine in November 2022, weeks after entering Number 10.

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The UK has been among the most vocal backers of Ukraine, with Mr Zelenskyy visiting London early last year in a historic trip.

Number 10 said the £2.5 billion in funding would cover long-range missiles, air defence, artillery ammunition and maritime security, with the support an increase of £200 million on the last two years.

Around £200 million will also be spent on a push to procure and produce thousands of military drones, which the government said was the largest delivery of drones to Ukraine from any nation.

Most are expected to be manufactured in the UK.

Mr Zelenskyy has said Ukraine particularly needs air defence systems to fend off Russian aerial barrages.

Rishi Sunak travels to meet Zelenskyy by train. Credit: PA

More than 500 drones and missiles were fired between December 29 and January 2, according to officials in Kyiv.

The Ukrainian leader began the year with a visit to several Baltic states in a bid to drum up support.

The prime minister will meet Ukrainian emergency workers during the visit, with Mr Sunak also expected to announce a further £18 million in aid.

The UK has not offered a multi-year funding commitment to Ukraine.

When questioned about this Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said: "There is £2.5 billion that effectively is the funding for tactical activity in this next year, follows £2.3 billion last year and the £2.3 billion the year before.

“These capability coalitions, there are a number of them led by different countries, but the ones that the UK are leading is principally in the maritime domain," he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“They are exactly the multi-year capability development programmes that give the Ukrainians that certainty around the development of their capabilities over the arc of a decade, and equally importantly, give (Vladimir) Putin the certainty that there is no loss in patience and commitment from their (Ukraine’s) Western supporters,” he said.

Funding and resources will also be provided for English language training in the country, Number 10 said.

Shadow defence secretary John Healey gave Labour’s backing for the “vital support” for Ukraine.

“The UK is united in support of Ukraine and against Russian aggression,” he said a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“Labour fully backs this new military funding for Ukraine – and has been pushing ministers since the autumn to confirm 2024 military funding."

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