Seeking support for a counterattack against Russian forces, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky obtained attack drones and anti-aircraft missiles from Britain on Monday and said he was optimistic about future deliveries of fighter jets.
• Also read: Ukraine says it has regained up to two kilometers around Bakhmut
• Also read: The Special Representative of China visits Ukraine
After Rome, Berlin and Paris, the British leg of Mr Zelensky’s European tour comes as the Ukrainian army claims the “first success” of its offensive around Bakhmut, the epicenter of eastern fighting for months now largely controlled by the Russians.
On the other hand, Russia, for its part, says that it is advancing within this same city, which it has been tirelessly trying to conquer since last summer, at the cost of great losses and, for the time being, without success.
But the time for a counter-attack, which was declared imminent, had not yet come, which prompted Volodymyr Zelensky to calm down, emphasizing that he was “preparing” for actions, but repeating that Kev “needs more time”.
“It’s a difficult time,” he admitted after being greeted by Rishi Sunak at the very rustic residence of British prime ministers in Checkers, northwest London.
A reminder of the reality of the fighting: The strikes again caused civilian casualties, four dead in Avdiovka, a front-line district near Donetsk, and another two in a village in the Kharkiv region on the border with Russia, according to regional authorities.
In Lugansk, a stronghold of pro-Russian separatists, an explosion injured seven people, including the interior minister of the pro-Moscow administration, Igor Kornet.
To get more arms and military hardware, President Zelensky is touring several European capitals, ahead of a busy diplomatic week with Council of Europe summits in Reykjavík on Tuesday and then G7 powers in Hiroshima from May 19-21.
In the UK, the government promised to deliver to Kiev, “in the coming months,” “hundreds” of long-range (200 km) anti-aircraft missiles and attack drones. These missiles will be added to the Storm Shadow cruise missiles that London promised last week, and are the first of their kind for this type of armament that Ukraine has been demanding for months to achieve targets far from the front line.
The Russian military has already claimed to have shot down one of these machines.
Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned that increased British aid would lead to “more destruction”, but would “not have a significant impact on the course” of the conflict.
But Rishi Sunak responded by saying that British assistance was for the long term, including “security arrangements” needed once Ukraine regained the occupied part of its territory. He also confirmed that London would play a “key role” in the “alliance” that Kÿiv wants to assemble to deliver fighter jets to him, but to no avail so far.
“I think it will happen very soon, and you will be informed about decisions that I think are very important,” Volodymyr Zelensky said on Monday, saying he was “very optimistic.”
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No European country has yet come forward to provide Kiev with such aircraft, but the UK will already train Ukrainian pilots this summer.
On Sunday, Mr. Zelensky received France’s repeated commitment in Paris, particularly in the field of light armored vehicles, which are particularly useful on the battlefield.
According to a joint statement, “In the coming weeks, France will train and equip several battalions with dozens of armored vehicles and light tanks, including the AMX-10 RC.”
In Berlin, despite his previous procrastination, Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced a new military aid package to Ukraine worth 2.7 billion euros, including in particular dozens of tanks and other armored vehicles, reconnaissance drones and four new Iris-T air defense systems.
Also on the diplomatic level, Chinese envoy Li Hui, the special representative for Eurasian affairs in charge of discussing the settlement of the situation in Ukraine, will visit Kiev on Tuesday and Wednesday, a senior Ukrainian government official announced.
China has not publicly condemned Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine, unlike most major world powers.
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday that Russia had “initiated a de facto form of dependence with respect to China,” which the Kremlin described as a “misunderstanding” of relations between Moscow and Beijing.
In a sign of high tension with the West, Russia announced on Monday that it had taken off one of its planes to rendezvous over the Baltic Sea with two military planes, French and German, accusing it of wanting to “violate Russian borders.”
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