The UK has moved to commit additional munitions including long-range attack drones to Ukraine, as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy paid a flying visit to the country on 15 May as his whirlwind tour of Europe continues.
Having already visit the leaders of Italy, France, and Germany in recent days, Zelenskyy’s visit to the UK comes as Ukraine prepares its long-awaited counterattack aimed at pushing back Russian forces occupying much of the country’s eastern territory.
Casualties on both sides in the 15-month-long war are mounting as frontlines became more fixed over the winter, with little territorial gains from either Ukraine or Russia.
The UK last week announced that it had committed an undisclosed number of Storm Shadow air-launched cruise missiles to Ukraine, becoming the first country to provide long-range munitions able to strike targets from hundreds of miles away. In total, the UK committed £2.3bn of military assistance to Ukraine in 2022, with UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledging to meet that number in 2023.
So far in 2023 the UK equipment provided includes a squadron of Challenger 2 main battle tanks, self-propelled guns, hundreds of armoured vehicles and missiles including Starstreak and Storm Shadow, to Ukraine.
Prior to Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, the UK in 2021 had committed to aiding Ukraine in the redevelopment of its naval capabilities, including the manufacture of fast inshore attack craft, and the creation of new naval base on the Black Sea and Sea of Azov under the Ukrainian naval capability enhancement project.
UK defence prime Babcock would also help develop a modern frigate capability for Ukraine’s navy, although all such long-term programmes have taken a back seat to the more immediate war equipment needs following Russia’s invasion.
European allies have also committed significant quantities of military equipment and assistance, although Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy has called for materiel to be delivered more quickly as it prepares a counter-offensive against Russia.
UK leader to push Ukraine support at G7
Prime Minister Sunak will also embark on busy week of diplomatic missions this week, with key speeches at the Council of Europe and G7 summits where he is expected to call for sustained global support for Ukraine.
In a UK Government statement, Sunak said: “The frontlines of Putin’s war of aggression may be in Ukraine but the fault lines stretch all over the world. It is in all our interest to ensure Ukraine succeeds and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s barbarism is not rewarded.”
In June the UK will host a Ukraine Recovery Conference to drum up support in the international community to support Ukraine’s reconstruction after the conclusion of its war against Russia.
Previously agreed projects such as the UNCEP could well be renewed, depending on the territorial outcome of the conflict, while a vast programme of civil infrastructure is required.