London: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will urge NATO members to help boost Ukraine’s fighting powers against Russia during a G7 meeting to mark the anniversary of Russia’s invasion, urging them to supply Kyiv with former Soviet fighter jets.
Declaring that the Ukrainian forces need a “decisive advantage” over Russia on the battlefield, Sunak will renew Britain’s offer to send Typhoon jets to Poland or any other eastern European country that is prepared to hand over its fleet of MiG-29 combat aircraft to Ukraine.
Two Mikoyan MIG-29 from the Polish Air Force take part in a NATO shielding exercise near the Lask Air Base on in Poland last year.Credit:Getty Images
European efforts to arm Ukraine with Western tanks have edged forward after Finland pledged to supply combat vehicles to the war-torn country and Poland said 14 of its Leopard 2A4s would cross the border “in a few days”.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz last month announced that Berlin would send 14 Leopard 2A6s to bolster Kyiv’s war effort and would allow other countries with stocks of the German-made tanks to export them to Ukraine. But progress assembling two Leopard 2 battalions, which equate to about 62 tanks, has been painfully slow.
Spain has planned to send six older 2A4 tanks to Kyiv, but in an example of the obstacles involved in giving Ukraine the military equipment it needs, Madrid confirmed they would have to undergo extensive repairs before they can be delivered.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hosts the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky at Number 10 earlier this month. Zelansky was on a European tour to ask for fighter-jets.Credit:Getty Images
Sunak will renew a previous commitment to give Ukraine missiles capable of hitting Crimea as discussions take place over the suitability of Harpoon anti-ship missiles or Storm Shadow air-to-surface missiles, both of which would greatly increase the range of the Ukrainian military.
He has resisted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s demands to supply him directly with British Typhoons, even though the Royal Air Force will retire 24 of the aircraft by 2025. The jet would likely require the enlargement of Ukrainian airbases — potentially presenting an easier target for Russian missile attacks — as well as hundreds of support staff and months of training.
Sunak will instead attempt to revive a backfill deal to supply Ukraine with MiG-29s that could be put into immediate use in the battlefield. The United States vetoed a similar backfill deal with Poland earlier in the conflict under which 28 ex-Soviet planes would have been given to Kyiv in exchange for American F-35s.
Sunak’s rallying cry comes amid fears that China could be on the verge of reaching an agreement to supply Russia with weapons.
“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 Putin’s mindset,” Sunak will say during the video call hosted by Japan on Friday.
“The coming weeks will be difficult for Ukraine, but they will also be difficult for Russia. They are over-reaching once again. So now is the time to support Ukraine’s plan to re-arm, regroup and push forward.”
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni ruled out jets when travelling to Ukraine earlier this week as the latest Western ally to meet with Zelensky and discuss military aid. She said fighter jets were “not on the table” but was considering providing Kyiv with additional air defence systems.
The United Nations on Thursday voted overwhelmingly to demand that Russia “immediately” and “unconditionally” withdraw its troops from Ukraine – 141 countries voted in favour of the resolution, 32 abstained including China and India, and seven voted against the motion. They were Russia, Belarus, Syria, North Korea, Mali, Nicaragua and Eritrea.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, centre left, attends a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, near the Kremlin Wall during the national celebrations of the “Defender of the Fatherland Day” in Moscow on the eve of the 12-month anniversary of his war.Credit:Kremlin/AP
Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed the “heroic” fight of Russian soldiers in Moscow on the eve of the anniversary, defending their “historical lands” as he laid flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and met soldiers in Red Square.
He was buoyed by a visit from Wang Yi, the Chinese head of foreign policy, this week who announced that President Xi Jinping was planning a trip to Moscow. Xi has signalled a desire to be more involved in directing the outcome of the war.
The US, Germany and other Western countries have warned China not to sell weapons to Russia, saying that any such move would have severe consequences.
Russia, which is hemmed in by severe sanctions, has sought weaponry from Iran and North Korea, including drones.
China has so far stood aside however German newspaper Der Spiegel on Thursday night reported that Chinese drone manufacturer Xian Bingo Intelligent Aviation Technology had said it was prepared to make 100 prototypes of its ZT-180 drone, which is capable of carrying a 35 to 50-kilogram warhead.
Zelensky said he was keen to meet China’s representatives after it prepared a “peace plan” without any input from his government.
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