Top US and UK diplomats pledge support for Ukraine after Russian strike on civilians

UK’s Foreign Secretary meets his US counterpart in Washington

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, and Britain's Foreign Secretary James Cleverly hold a joint press conference at the State Department in Washington. AFP
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With Russia readying for another military offensive, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly embarked on a whirlwind two-day tour of North America to shore up diplomatic and military support for Ukraine.

The Foreign Secretary met with his US counterpart Antony Blinken in Washington on Tuesday to discuss ways the two country’s could continue to support Kyiv.

Last week, Britain announced it would send 14 Challenger II battle tanks and 30 AS90 15mm self-propelled guns to Ukraine in a major escalation of support for the besieged country.

When the war began, many thought it inconceivable that the UK would send such military power to Ukraine, but Mr Cleverly said the conflict now demands it.

“Now we see more conflict in open spaces, in open ground in the east and the south, which therefore necessitates more manoeuvrist equipment, the ability to fight and manoeuvre simultaneously,” he said.

Kyiv has repeatedly asked for more weapons and is currently calling for additional aircraft and attack helicopters.

Mr Cleverly’s visit to North America comes days after a Russian strike on a civilian apartment building in Dnipro killed at least 45 people, including six children.

It was one of the deadliest attack on civilians since Russian invaded on February 24, 2022.

Russia appears to be readying for another offensive in hopes of turning the tide in the conflict, which in recent months has swung in Kyiv’s favour.

Mr Blinken said the US and its Nato allies would not let Ukraine's hard-won gains be for naught.

“We're determined together as well with many others to make sure, as I said, the Ukrainians have what they need to recapture, regain what they've lost and to deal with the Russian aggression,” he said.

About 600 Ukrainian troops are currently being trained by US forces at a base in Germany.

The US has committed more than $24 billion in military assistance to Ukraine since the conflict began.

A high-level team of US delegates — including Wendy Sherman, the deputy secretary of state — met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday in Kyiv to reaffirm Washington's “strong and steadfast” commitment.

Everything you need to know about the Challenger 2 tank being sent to Ukraine — video

Mr Blinken and Mr Cleverly also discussed the recent execution of British-Iranian Alireza Akbari by Tehran and the ongoing protests there.

Iran executed Mr Akbari after he was accused of spying on behalf of the UK.

“We'll continue to work with the United Kingdom and our other allies and partners to hold Iran's leadership accountable for these and other abuses,” said Mr Blinken.

There are growing calls in the British Parliament to proscribe Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist entity — something the US has already done.

Bob Blackman, a British Conservative MP, has been spearheading efforts to list the IRGC as a terrorist entity.

In an interview with The National, he said such a move would deal a heavy blow to the group’s financial stability and deprive them of the ability to channel vital cash to their proxies.

Mr Blackman, MP for Harrow East, said it is a question of when, not if, the UK will take such action.

“London is one of the world’s financial capitals of the world and if the government can sequester the group’s assets, it will severely damage it,” he said.

Mr Cleverly, however, refrained from saying what measures the UK was willing to take with regard to the IRGC, saying only that: “We will continue to act in response to their behaviours.”

Updated: January 17, 2023, 10:45 PM