Rishi Sunak given Ukrainian order of freedom as he announces £2.5bn of aid in Kyiv, as Russia slams 'arrogant British'

12 January 2024, 16:31

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak spoke in parliament in Kyiv
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak spoke in parliament in Kyiv. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

Rishi Sunak has been awarded the Ukrainian order of freedom after travelling to Kyiv to announce £2.5 billion of aid for the war effort - with Russia reacting furiously.

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Mr Sunak vowed continuing support for Ukraine at a press conference with Volodymr Zelenskyy on Friday afternoon, where the two leaders also signed a security agreement.

The Ukrainian president thanked Britain's prime minister for his "personal leadership" as he handed him the award for "strengthening Ukrainian-British interstate co-operation, supporting state sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine".

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak says goodbye to President Volodymyr Zelensky
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak says goodbye to President Volodymyr Zelensky. Picture: Alamy

Mr Sunak told reporters that the UK is "one of Ukraine's most significant supporters, particularly when it comes to providing military aid."

He added that the £2.5 billion package for the next financial year, an increase on aid given in previous years, gives a "strong signal" about support for Ukraine.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak receives a standing ovation, with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak receives a standing ovation, with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Picture: Alamy

Mr Sunak said: "That represents the seriousness of the situation here and our determination to stand with Ukraine. And that's why I'm here on my first foreign visit of this year, the first foreign leader to visit Ukraine this year."

He added that he wanted to "to send a strong signal of support to the Ukrainian people, but also a strong signal of support that Vladimir Putin needs to recognise we're not going anywhere".

Mr Sunak's visit comes as the Ukrainian president presses allies in the West to provide the country with more support to fight back against Russian forces.

The crisis in the Middle East, including in Gaza and the Red Sea, has also turned global attention away from the battle against Vladimir Putin.

Mr Sunak warned that Western countries wavering in their support for Ukraine could embolden Vladimir Putin and other belligerent dictators.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (centre) gives a Union Flag to speaker Ruslan Stefanchuk (2nd left) and President Volodymyr Zelensky
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (centre) gives a Union Flag to speaker Ruslan Stefanchuk (2nd left) and President Volodymyr Zelensky. Picture: Alamy

He said: "Ukraine is not alone, and Ukraine will never be alone. Putin might think that he can outlast us but he is wrong. We stand with you today, tomorrow and for as long as it takes.

"Because this war is about Ukraine's right to defend itself and to determine your own future and the Ukrainian people's historic choice to be an independent democracy at the heart of Europe.

"Your quest for freedom has inspired and moved the British people and for the free nations of the world, aid to Ukraine is also an investment in our own collective security.

"Because if Putin wins in Ukraine, he will not stop there, and our opponents around the world believe that we have neither the patience nor resources for long wars. So waver now and we emboldened not just Putin, but his allies in North Korea, Iran and elsewhere.

"That's why the United Kingdom and the free world will continue to stand with Ukraine, as we have since the very beginning of this war."

But the aid package provoked a furious response from Russia.

Dmitry Medvedev, the former president and a staunch ally of Mr Putin, said: "I hope that our eternal enemies - the arrogant British - understand that deploying an official military contingent to Ukraine would be a declaration of war against our country."

Dmitry Medvedev
Dmitry Medvedev. Picture: Getty

The joint security agreement commits the UK to sharing intelligence, giving cyber security, medical and military training, and working together on industrial defence issues.

The £2.5 billion aid package for 2024-25 is an increase of £200 million on previous years. It includes £200 million for drones, which have emerged as a key part of the war effort. The UK said it was the largest delivery of drones to Ukraine of any country.

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