UK reveals new ‘gift’ for Ukraine
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told Parliament on Monday that London will send Ukraine “a small number” of armored vehicles equipped to launch Starstreak anti-air missiles. Wallace said that Ukrainian personnel visited a British military training area before these vehicles were selected.
“We shall be gifting a small number of armored vehicles fitted with launchers for those anti-air missiles,” Wallace told lawmakers, referring to the Starstreak missiles already pledged to Kiev by Prime Minister Boris Johnson as part of a £100 million ($130 million) arms package earlier this month.
Wallace said that the vehicles would “give Ukraine forces enhanced short-range anti-air capabilities both day and night.” He said that a Ukrainian government delegation recently visited Britain’s Salisbury Plain training area before Johnson’s arms package was announced.
UK officials had already confirmed that Ukrainian troops were being trained on Salisbury Plain, while British tabloid The Sun reported last week that the Ukrainians would likely be given the Stormer vehicles.
The Stormer is a tracked vehicle first manufactured by Alvis Vickers in the 1970s and now produced by BAE Systems. It can carry a variety of missile launchers, mortars, or cannons. The Stormers bound for Ukraine will fire Starstreak missiles – anti-air projectiles broadly comparable to the US-made Stinger or Russian IGLA. It is unclear how many missiles or launchers have been sent to Ukraine.
In addition to the multi-million-pound weapons package announced by Johnson, the UK has sent thousands of anti-tank missiles to Ukraine. The US on Monday pledged another $713 million in military aid for Kiev, bringing to nearly $4 billion the amount of military assistance sent by Washington since Russia’s operation in Ukraine began in February.
Meanwhile, Russia has claimed on several occasions to have destroyed stockpiles of Western arms in Ukraine. Most recently, Russian military spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov stated on Saturday that “high-precision long-range air-launched missiles” hit a logistics terminal near Odessa, where “a large batch of foreign weapons received from the United States and European countries was stored.” Ukraine in turn alleged the strike in fact targeted civilians.
Moscow earlier cautioned that it considers foreign arms convoys and stockpiles in Ukraine “legitimate targets.”
Russia attacked the neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.