Sunak vows to speed up military aid to Ukraine

Ukraine: Zelenskyy’s request for F-16 jets discussed by expert

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Rishi Sunak spoke to President Volodymyr Zelensky to tell him he is determined to ensure Britain’s promised military aid reaches Ukraine as quicky as possible.

Fedir Venislavskyi, a member of Ukraine’s parliamentary National Security, Defense and Intelligence committee, said he was convinced the country would be “completely liberated”. But he warned time was of the essence.

Hesitation over sending fighter jets was an act of ”incomprehensible caution, slowness and indecision” by European powers, he said.

Kyiv and Moscow are both racing to build up enough forces and equipment in order to seize and hold new territory in the late Summer.

Mr Venislavskyi, a member of Ukraine’s parliamentary National Security, Defense and Intelligence committee, warned that delays in the delivering of promised equipment may see Kyiv hampered in mounting a land, sea and air offensive of its own.

Speaking to the Sunday Express on the back of visits to Germany, Poland and Bulgaria, he said Ukraine was “deeply grateful” for the assistance provided so far.

But he added: “The main problem during our meetings has been the political procrastination and excessive caution with which our Western partners are providing the weapons we need.

“This, unfortunately, has been happening since the beginning of the war. Decisions to provide us with much-needed military-technical assistance are delayed by at least 3-4 months. In the meantime, Russia is intensively accumulating forces and funds for another offensive on our soil.

“That is why we have always emphasised how the time we have wasted is working against us.”

He confirmed that a large-scale counterattack by the Ukrainian armed forces will “undoubtedly take place in the short term and will completely liberate our citizens in all our temporarily occupied territories, including Crimea.”

But the timing of this depended on the availability of “sufficient weaponry required for this purpose.”

He added: “it is important for all our partners and friends to understand that it is the availability of the necessary number of tanks, armoured personnel carriers, artillery systems and aircraft that is one of the most important components of our success. “

While he admitted that, with capable ground-based air defence systems preventing Russia’s air forces from dominating the skies, the conflict was still a ground war, he said fighter jets could still play other vital roles apart from offensive and defensive operations on the ground.

“Modern aircrafts are versatile flying platforms that allow us to perform a variety of combat missions – from countering enemy planes and helicopters to intercepting cruise missiles, which our pilots demonstrate very well even on old Soviet aircraft.” he said.

“Yet, here once more, we observe the same situation as with the decisions to provide air defence systems in the spring and summer, armoured vehicles in the fall, and tanks in the winter- the same incomprehensible caution, the same slowness and indecision.

“And this means additional thousands of killed and wounded Ukrainians, both servicemen and civilians – children, women, the elderly.

“Ukraine will get fighter jets. We do not doubt it. But time is playing against us again.”

The UK has led Europe’s military response, and is now joined with Nato partners in the biggest mobilisation of equipment and capability since the Second World War.

Mr Sunak told Mr Zelensky in a call that Ukrainian troops in the UK have begun training this week on Challenger 2 main battle tanks.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “Both leaders agreed that it was vital that international partners accelerated their assistance to Ukraine to help seize the opportunity to push Russian forces back, as well as looking at how they could support the long-term capability of Ukraine’s armed forces.

“The greatest weapon in Ukraine’s arsenal was the collective international unity in support of Ukraine, the leaders agreed.”

Training in air assault, armoured infantry tactics and amphibious warfare is currently being given to 6,000 Ukrainian troops. A further 20,000 have already been trained.

Ukrainian forces on Salisbury Plain are being taught ‘armoured-infantry’ tactics in which tanks are used in conjunction with ground troops to deliver a dynamic punch to the enemy – as well as air assault operations using Chinook helicopters and seaborne assaults.

The Chinook helicopter training is a signal that the West is ready to provide aipower to Ukraine.

Also on Salisbury Plain are troops from the US, Canada, New Zealand and The Netherlands, with Dutch marines training Ukrainians to use the US-made Stinger anti-aircraft missiles.

Ukrainian commanders are also being trained to orchestrate artillery. Other training includes close quarter fighting, drone warfare and sniping skills.

A senior British Army source said: “From air defence to main battle tanks their capability is soaring, This will provide new energy to Ukraine’s forces and I expect we will see a dynamic thrust by Ukrainian forces in the next few months.

“The challenge is delivering all this equipment to Ukraine – there are planes ferrying stores and weapons from all over Europe everyday”.

As the war enters its first anniversary, Mr Venislavskyi said delayed decisions have cost thousands of Ukrainian lives, and will cost thousands more,

`”We are confident that the availability of such weapons in Ukraine during the counter-offensive operation in the summer and autumn of 2022 would allow us to liberate many times more of our citizens in the territory temporarily occupied by the enemy. And we will do it,” he said.

“But as delays continue, so will the price of victory be different.”

In separate news, the bodies of British aid workers Chris Parry, 28, and Andrew Bagshaw, 48, were due to be handed back to families as part of a 116-strong prisoner exchange with Russia,

The pair were killed last month while heading to the town of Soledar in the eastern Donetsk region where heavy fighting was reported. They were attempting to rescue an elderly woman when their car was hit by an artillery shell.

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