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9 Apr, 2022 21:04

UK's Johnson in new weapons pledge

As he met President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kiev, UK PM pledged second weapons package in two days
UK's Johnson in new weapons pledge

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made an unannounced visit to Kiev on Saturday, during which he pledged the delivery of 120 armored vehicles and new anti-ship missile systems to the Ukrainian government. Johnson authorized a separate military aid package the day before, and also promised Ukraine $500 million in World Bank loans.

“Today I met my friend President Zelensky in Kiev as a show of our unwavering support for the people of Ukraine,” Johnson tweeted, shortly after news of his unannounced trip to the Ukrainian capital broke. “We're setting out a new package of financial and military aid which is a testament of our commitment to his country's struggle against Russia’s barbaric campaign,” he added.

According to Downing Street, Britain will supply Zelensky’s forces with 120 armored vehicles and new anti-ship missile systems. This tranche of military equipment is in addition to a £100 million ($130 million) military aid package announced on Friday, which includes Starstreak anti-aircraft missiles, 800 NLAW anti-tank missiles, and “high-tech loitering munitions,” commonly known as ‘suicide drones.’

Johnson has stood out as one of the most eager pro-Ukrainian leaders in the West since Russia launched its military offensive in February. London has already sent more than 4,000 NLAW missiles to Ukraine and has convened a gathering of donors to convince its allies to step up their arms supplies. The UK has also sanctioned Russia extensively and cut off its own supply of Russian oil and gas in response to the conflict.

Johnson himself has referred to two incidents – the alleged deliberate killing of civilians in the town of Bucha and a deadly missile strike on a train station in Kramatorsk – as Russian “war crimes,” even though the circumstances surrounding both still haven’t been investigated. Moscow has accused Ukrainian forces of manipulating evidence of the former for a “crude and cynical provocation,” and cited the Ukrainian military’s use of the type of missile deployed in the latter incident.

The UK PM's support has been recognized by Kiev. In a Facebook post announcing the Johnson-Zelensky meeting, Andrey Sibiga, an aide to the Ukrainian leader, described the UK as “leader in defense support of Ukraine. The leader in the anti-war coalition. Leader in sanctions against the Russian aggressor.”

Johnson’s visit came a day after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen made a similar trip to Ukraine where she promised Zelensky a fast track to EU membership. Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer also paid a visit to Kiev on Saturday. However, Austria is a neutral country, and Nehammer did not commit any military aid to Zelensky. Instead, he pledged to support further EU sanctions on Moscow and provide humanitarian aid.