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dated: 2022-11-19 20:38:31 .
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak holds a news conference following a meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden and a telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on November 16, 2022 in Nusa Dua, Indonesia Leon Neal/The Associated Press
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged 125 anti-aircraft guns and other air defense technology when he made an unannounced visit – his first – to the snow-covered Ukrainian capital on Saturday for talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The air defense package, estimated by Britain at 50 million pounds ($60 million), comes as Russia bombards Ukraine’s power grid and other vital infrastructure from the air, causing widespread cold-weather blackouts for millions of Ukrainians.
The package includes radar and other technology to counter explosive drones supplied by Iran and deployed by Russia against Ukrainian targets. It comes on top of a delivery of more than 1,000 anti-aircraft missiles that Britain announced earlier this month.
Britain is one of the strongest Western supporters of Ukraine’s resistance to the Russian invasion. In a conversation with Zelenski, Sunak noted that Britain had provided 2.3 billion pounds ($2.7 billion) in military aid and promised: “We will do the same next year.”
“Your homes, your hospitals, your power plants will be destroyed,” Sunak said announcing the new air defense package. “You and your people are paying a high price in blood.”
Through a translator, Zelenskyy said the Russian strikes had damaged about half of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.
As the snowflakes fell, Zelenski welcomed Sunak to the presidential palace for their talks. He called the two countries “the strongest allies”. As they walked through the snow, they also inspected captured Russian tanks and other wrecked and rusted military equipment used by the invading forces on display in a square in Kiev.
“With friends like you by our side, we are confident of our victory. Our two nations know what it means to stand up for freedom,” the Ukrainian leader said on Twitter.
Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who resigned in July, was widely praised in Ukraine for his support. Sunak wants to reassure Ukrainian leaders that there will be no change of position under his leadership, even though as Britain’s chief financial officer under Johnson he was seen as opposed to calls for increased defense spending.
“The courage of the Ukrainian people is an inspiration to the world,” Sunak said. “In years to come, we will tell our grandchildren your story.”
He promised that Britain “will stand with you until Ukraine has the peace and security it needs and deserves, and then we will stand with you as you rebuild your great country.”
Sunak also laid flowers at a war dead memorial, lit a candle at a memorial for victims of the deadly Soviet-era famine in Ukraine in the 1930s and met with first responders at a fire station, his office said.
Sunak’s visit follows a recent major battlefield success in Ukraine: the recapture of the southern city of Kherson.
The restoration of railway connections on Saturday brought additional joy to the residents of Kherson, who were eagerly awaiting the first train from Kyiv.
“This is the beginning of a new life,” said 74-year-old Ludmila Olhouskaya, who had no one to pick her up from the train, but went to the station to show her support. “Or rather, a revival of the former.”
On the battlefield, Russian forces carried out 10 air strikes, 10 missile strikes and 42 missile strikes against Ukraine over the past day, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces announced on Saturday.
In Kherson, the main southern city retaken by Ukrainian forces more than a week ago, two Russian rockets hit an oil warehouse – the first time a warehouse in the city has been hit since the Russians left, according to local firefighters. AP reporters said there was a huge fire and black smoke.
“There was a powerful explosion,” said Valentyna Svyderska, who lives nearby. “We were scared, everyone was scared… Because this is an army at war with civilians.”
Local authorities struggled to respond to the fire, firefighters said, as Russian forces seized the city’s fire engines and ambulances as they retreated.
Russia is stepping up its offensive in the eastern region of Donetsk, and Ukraine has reported heavy fighting around the city of Bakhmut, the town of Avdiivka and the village of Novopavlivka.
Russian forces claimed to have repelled a Ukrainian counter-offensive to retake the settlements of Pershotravneve, Kyslivka and Krokhmalne in northeastern Ukraine’s Kharkiv province.
Ukrainian forces said dozens of Russian soldiers were killed or wounded in an attack on the village of Mikhailivka in the southern Kherson region, and the wounded were transferred to hospitals in Crimea. The claim could not be independently verified.
Ukrainian forces also reported carrying out deadly attacks on Kinburn Spit in southern Ukraine’s Mykolaiv province, a key location for Russian electronic warfare.
Russia continued its attacks on critical infrastructure, with a rocket attack overnight causing a fire at a key industrial facility in Ukraine’s southern Zaporizhia region, the regional chief said. Some parts of the regional capital, Zaporizhia, remained without heating.
The head of Ukraine’s largest private energy company told the BBC that Ukrainians who can afford it should consider leaving the country to ease pressure on the war-torn energy system.
“If they can find an alternative place to stay for another three or four months, it will help the system a lot,” said Maxim Timchenko, director of DTEK. “If you use less, hospitals with injured soldiers have a guaranteed power supply.”
A funeral was held in Poland on Saturday for one of the two men killed in a rocket crash this week, state news agency PAP reports. A military guard of honor and representatives of Poland and Ukraine joined his family and community members.
NATO member Poland and the head of the military alliance said the missile attack in the eastern agricultural region appeared to be unintentional and was likely triggered by air defenses in neighboring Ukraine. At that time, Russia was bombing Ukraine.
Britain’s Ministry of Defense said on Saturday that Russia had completed its biggest single-day debt issuance, raising $13.6 billion on Wednesday. Debt issuance is a key mechanism for maintaining defense spending.
British Prime Minister Sunak suddenly travels to Kyiv and increases defense aid
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