British Defence Secretary visits Ukraine to discuss how to bolster its air defences

The trip was Grant Shapps' first to Kyiv since taking on the post

British Defence Secretary Grant Shapps meets Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv. PA
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British Defence Secretary Grant Shapps and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy have discussed how to strengthen Ukraine's air defences ahead of possible Russian strikes on critical energy infrastructure this winter during a meeting in Kyiv.

They also discussed the use of long-range weapons, according to Mr Zelenskyy’s office.

Britain has been one of Ukraine’s closest allies throughout the full-scale invasion launched by Russia in February 2022.

Earlier this year, it supplied Kyiv with Storm Shadow cruise missiles that have allowed Ukraine to conduct long-range strikes on Russian targets in territory occupied by Moscow.

“On behalf of the whole nation, I thank you for everything you are doing for us. We are grateful for your help – military, financial, humanitarian. We greatly appreciate that we can rely on you,” a statement released by Mr Zelenskyy’s office read.

Mr Zelenskyy also raised defence sector co-operation between Kyiv and London, which, he said, had enabled Ukraine to significantly expand its capabilities on the battlefield with long-range weapons.

The statement said Mr Shapps and Mr Zelenskyy discussed ways to improve Ukrainian air defences in anticipation of winter.

Mr Zelenskyy said in his daily video address late on Wednesday that “our warriors need more means of destroying Russian missiles, Shaheds and other combat drones, as well as Russian aircraft.”

The visit was not announced in advance, and it is unclear exactly when Mr Shapps met Mr Zelenskyy.

Mr Shapps has visited Ukraine before during the war, but in his previous capacity as Energy Secretary.

He replaced Ben Wallace as Defence Secretary last month, vowing to keep up Britain's support for Ukraine.

Meanwhile, an infrastructure facility on the outskirts of the Black Sea port city of Mykolayiv was hit by a Russian missile late on Wednesday, regional governor Vitaliy Kim said on Telegram.

Ukrainian air defence shot down 33 out of 44 Shahed drones launched by Russia overnight, the Ukrainian air force said in a post on the Telegram messenger app.

Updated: September 28, 2023, 3:00 PM