We must help Ukraine gain a 'decisive advantage', Rishi Sunak to tell G7

Former PM Boris Johnson says it is 'absolutely crucial' Ukraine has the equipment it needs to drive out Russian forces

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hold a news conference at an army camp in Dorset, England. Getty
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On the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will urge fellow world leaders to “move faster” in arming the country’s troops.

He is expected to use a G7 meeting on Friday to urge allies to supply longer-range weapons to Ukraine, stressing the urgent need for Kyiv to gain a “decisive advantage” on the battlefield.

The UK will hold a national minute’s silence to mark 12 months of conflict, amid fears that the war could drag on for at least another year.

“For Ukraine to win this war — and to accelerate that day — they must gain a decisive advantage on the battlefield. That is what it will take to shift [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s mindset,” Mr Sunak is expected to tell G7 leaders in an online meeting.

“This must be our priority now. Instead of an incremental approach, we need to move faster on artillery, armour and air defence.

“The coming weeks will be difficult for Ukraine, but they will also be difficult for Russia. They are overreaching once again. So now is the time to support Ukraine’s plan to rearm, regroup and push forward.”

Mr Sunak, who will host members of the Ukrainian armed forces in Downing Street as well as ambassador Vadym Prystaiko, will also reiterate his offer of UK support to countries able to provide jets to Ukraine.

The Prime Minister, with his wife Akshata Murty, is also expected to hang a blue and yellow wreath on the door of No 10.

One year of the Russia-Ukraine war — in pictures

“As we mark one year since a full-scale war broke out on our continent, I urge everyone to reflect on the courage and bravery of our Ukrainian friends who, every hour since, have fought heroically for their country,” he is expected to say.

“I am proud that the UK has stood shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine through this horrific conflict. As I stand with brave Ukrainian soldiers outside Downing Street today, my thoughts will be with all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend freedom and return peace to Europe.”

The UK remains a prominent supporter of Kyiv and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, with Mr Sunak announcing earlier this year that Britain would be the first country to supply tanks to its armed forces.

Keir Starmer, as he marked the anniversary, said that the UK’s support “is as firm and unstinting today as it was on that dark day one year ago”.

The Labour leader last week met Mr Zelenskyy in the Ukrainian capital.

Drones and weapons supplied to Ukraine — in pictures

“The resolve and the bravery of the Ukrainian people, supported by their allies across the world, has doomed Putin’s barbaric invasion to failure. We should take inspiration from their courage and resolve to double down on our support for them,” he said.

“When I visited President Zelenskyy in Kyiv recently, I was deeply moved by the way people there are continuing with their lives. Despite the appalling suffering being inflicted upon them, they remain steadfast and united.

“As we mark this solemn anniversary and look ahead to the coming months, we must do the same. Regardless of what other political disagreements we may have, we stand in lockstep with the government on this issue.

“No one should ever have to face the hardship and loss that the Ukrainian people have over the last year. Their fight for democracy, freedom and liberty in the face of tyranny is also our fight. Standing with our Nato allies, we will ensure Putin’s defeat and Ukraine’s victory.”

On the eve of the anniversary of the invasion, former prime minister Boris Johnson urged Mr Sunak to supply jet fighters to the Ukrainians to help drive out forces from their territory.

Russia and Ukraine conflict latest — in pictures

Mr Johnson said the UK should “break the ice” and send RAF Typhoons to the government in Kyiv.

As the Ukrainians prepare to mount an expected counter-offensive, Mr Zelenskyy has appealed for US F-16 fighters but western allies have so far been reluctant to agree, citing lengthy required training.

In an interview with Sky News, Mr Johnson said: “What the Ukrainians want is F-16s. We don’t have F-16s. We do have Typhoons. I think there is an argument for the UK breaking the ice and giving them some Typhoons.

“If it is a question of training people up to use those machines, we can do that.”

Mr Johnson said it is “absolutely crucial” the Ukrainians have the equipment they need if they are to drive out Russian forces and prevent them from regrouping for a fresh offensive.

Boris Johnson meets Zelenskyy in Ukraine — in pictures

“There is clearly a possibility, unless the Ukrainians get the help that they need, that Putin can kind of manufacture out of the land that he is able to retain some sort of victory from this disaster,” he said.

“That is why it is vital that we help the Ukrainians to expunge Putin’s forces from every part of their territory.”

Mr Johnson also said it would be a “historic mistake” for China to support Russia in the conflict by supplying it with weapons.

“Why does China want to be contaminated by association with Putin, who has revealed himself to be this gangster and adventurer? I think it would be a big, big mistake by China,” he said.

Updated: February 23, 2023, 10:30 PM