UK promises extra £1bn in military aid for Ukraine’s fight against Russia

PM says British support is transforming Ukraine's defences

A Ukrainian army soldier holds a grenade launcher in the trenches near Odesa, Ukraine. EPA / Poland Out
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The UK will provide an extra £1 billion in military aid for Ukraine in a huge boost for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s defence of his country.

The new funding amounts to a 77 per cent increase on the £1.3bn that has already been provided, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson claiming British support is “transforming Ukraine’s defences” against the Russian onslaught.

The promise of extra military support comes after Ukraine’s president urged Nato leaders to do more to help his country resist Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

At the Nato summit in Madrid, Spain, which ends on Thursday, the UK promised funding towards capabilities including sophisticated air defence systems, drones and electronic warfare equipment.

British officials said the equipment represents the first step in enabling Ukraine to go beyond defence and carry out offensive operations against Russian ground forces to recover lost territory.

Mr Johnson said: “Putin’s brutality continues to take Ukrainian lives and threaten peace and security across Europe.

“As Putin fails to make the gains he had anticipated and hoped for and the futility of this war becomes clear to all, his attacks against the Ukrainian people are increasingly barbaric.

“UK weapons, equipment and training are transforming Ukraine’s defences against this onslaught.”

He added that the UK will continue to stand squarely behind the Ukrainian people to ensure Russia fails in Ukraine.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives at the start of the second plenary session of the Nato summit in Madrid. AFP

The UK is counting its support for Ukraine as part of its defence spending, taking its commitment to about 2.3 per cent of gross domestic product.

The level of spending on defence has been the source of a row between Number 10 and the military, with has called for extra funding for UK forces to meet increased demands as a result of the instability caused by Russia’s actions.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “Britain’s commitment to Ukraine is real and constant and we will stand by them until Russia changes course.

“This military assistance will help them intensify their fight against Russian aggression and ensure they have the defence capabilities they need.”

On the 2.3 per cent spending figure, Mr Wallace told reporters in Madrid: “To be fair, Number 10 does say ‘if you include the extra Ukrainian spend’, they have put a sort of caveat to that.

“Because of course it isn’t core defence spending. I mean, it is not my core budget, it doesn’t buy me any more planes, tanks or ships.

“It is obliquely helping Britain’s defence because we’re helping Ukraine.”

The need for extra support for Ukraine was underlined by Odesa MP Alex Goncharenko, who said Russia was using “an incredible amount of artillery and multiple rocket launch systems” to flatten parts of his country.

“Yes, their artillery is old style, old soviet style. But it kills,” he told reporters in Madrid.

“They tried blitzkrieg and it failed, and now it’s scorched earth, like the First World War — that is the reality.”

Mr Wallace echoed that assessment of Russia’s tactics, which he estimated had cost Mr Putin about 25,000 soldiers.

“They are grinding at First World War levels of advancement — metres, not kilometres, a day,” he said.

Updated: June 29, 2022, 10:31 PM