UK pledges long range drones to Ukraine


LONDON – Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will pledge to send more weapons to Ukraine including attack drones and air defence systems, as the country’s president, Mr Volodymyr Zelensky, made a surprise visit to Britain. 

Mr Sunak will host Mr Zelensky on Monday at the prime minister’s countryside retreat Chequers north of London on the heels of similar visits by the Ukrainian leader to France, Germany and Italy. The pledge of additional military support from Britain comes as Kyiv’s forces prepare for a counter-offensive to take back territory occupied by Russian forces. 

Britain will confirm the transfer of hundreds of air defence missiles and further unmanned aerial systems, including hundreds of new attack drones with a range in excess of 200km, Downing Street said in a statement. Those systems will be delivered to Ukrainian forces over the coming months, Mr Sunak’s office said. 

“They need the sustained support of the international community to defend against the barrage of unrelenting and indiscriminate attacks that have been their daily reality for over a year,” Mr Sunak said in the statement.

Last week, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said Britain was providing the country with Storm Shadow cruise missiles. The weapons – jointly developed by the UK and France – can strike targets 250km away and are the longest-range missiles yet provided to Ukraine by Western allies.

Mr Zelensky’s trip comes ahead of his expected meeting with the Chinese envoy on Tuesday in Kyiv. The Ukrainian president’s tour of European capitals was to discuss weapons supply and to speak to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation members about his country’s future in the defence alliance. 

The Britain visit comes three months after Mr Zelensky’s first trip to the country since the start of the war, when he had an audience with King Charles III and addressed Parliament. On Saturday, the north-western city of Liverpool hosted Eurovision on behalf of Ukraine, a signal of ongoing British support. BLOOMBERG