Russian aviation school targeted in ‘Storm Shadow missile strike’ as Zelenskyy meets PM and UK pledges attack drones

15 May 2023, 13:41 | Updated: 15 May 2023, 13:45

The Ukrainian President and Rishi Sunak met at Chequers for ‘substantive negotiations’ over military aid
The Ukrainian President and Rishi Sunak met at Chequers for ‘substantive negotiations’ over military aid. Picture: Social media/Rishi Sunak Twitter

By Asher McShane

Russian forces have been attacked in the occupied Ukrainian city of Luhansk in what is believed to be one of the first strikes by a British-supplied Storm Shadow long-range missile.

Early reports suggest an aviation school housing Putin’s troops was targeted in the blast.

Explosions at around 8am this morning rocked the site near the city of Luhansk, with local reports suggesting the target was a former aviation Schoo.

Over the weekend Moscow's defence ministry said Ukrainian aircraft, supplied by the UK, struck industrial sites in Luhansk in eastern Ukraine.

The Storm Shadow long-range cruise missiles are said to have hit two industrial sites in the Russian-held city.

Social media footage shows the apparent Storm Shadow strike on the Russian target
Social media footage shows the apparent Storm Shadow strike on the Russian target. Picture: Social Media

Rishi Sunak announced on Thursday last week that the UK would provide Kyiv with the weapons, which cost around £2m each.

Footage from the most recent blast at the flight school shows the building on fire and thick plumes of smoke trailing into the sky.

Witnesses reported the sound of a plane, then a rumble and explosions.

There was no immediate information on the number of victims of the strike.

Zelenskyy and Sunak embrace as the pair meet at Chequers
Zelenskyy and Sunak embrace as the pair meet at Chequers. Picture: Rishi Sunak/Twitter

As Volodymyr Zelensky met Rishi Sunak at Chequers, Downing Street announced the UK will provide Ukraine with air defence missiles and attack drones.

In the latest leg of the Ukrainian president's tour of western allies, Mr Zelensky said the two leaders had also discussed western fighter jets and he anticipated "very important decisions" to be made soon.

No 10 said Britain will send hundreds of air defence missiles and further unmanned aerial systems to the war-torn country as the Prime Minister met the president at Chequers on Monday.

It follows meetings in Paris, Berlin and Rome and comes three months after the Ukrainian leader's first trip to London since the start of Russia's invasion.

Following the meeting, the president said the two countries were "real partners", with Mr Sunak knowing details of developments on the battlefield.

"We want to create this jets coalition and I'm very positive with it," he said.

"We spoke about it and I see that in the closest time you will hear some, I think very important decisions but we have to work a little bit more on it."

The Prime Minister stressed that the provision of warplanes was "not a straightforward thing" but said the UK was committed to training Ukrainian pilots using Nato-standard aircraft.

No 10 said an elementary flying phase for cohorts of Ukrainian pilots will begin this summer, going hand in hand with British efforts to work with other countries on providing F-16 jets.

Mr Sunak said: "This is a crucial moment in Ukraine's resistance to a terrible war of aggression they did not choose or provoke.

"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.

"We must not let them down.

"The frontlines of (Russian president Vladimir) Putin's war of aggression may be in Ukraine but the fault lines stretch all over the world.

"It is in all our interest to ensure Ukraine succeeds and Putin's barbarism is not rewarded.

"That is why the UK is sustaining our support to Ukraine, from tanks to training, ammunition to armoured vehicles.

"And this message of solidarity will ring loud in all my meetings with fellow world leaders in the days ahead."

At the start of the meeting, Mr Zelensky thanked the UK Government, the King and the British people for their support.

"We are thankful from all our hearts, from Ukrainians, from our soldiers, we are thankful," he said.

The president said his talks with the Prime Minister would cover "very important issues, urgent support for Ukraine".

The crisis was a matter of "security not only for Ukraine, it is important for all of Europe".

The visit comes days after Liverpool hosted Eurovision on behalf of Ukraine.

The latest package of military assistance includes hundreds of air defence missiles and further unmanned aerial systems including long-range attack drones with a range of more than 200 kilometres (124 miles).

The new equipment will be delivered over the coming months.

The UK has also recently promised long-range Storm Shadow cruise missiles to Kyiv after continued Russian attacks.

The meeting between the two leaders comes at the start of a week of intense diplomatic activity on the Ukraine crisis.

Zelensky meets Sunak for talks as UK promises extra military aid for Ukraine

Mr Sunak will attend a Council of Europe summit in Iceland, with Mr Zelensky joining virtually, before heading to Japan for the G7 gathering in Hiroshima.

A Downing Street spokesman said the Prime Minister had promised the president he would use the engagements later in the week "to stress the importance of sustaining global support for Ukraine at this pivotal time".

The Kremlin criticised the latest announcement of military aid for Ukraine, but claimed the weapons would make little difference on the battlefield.

"Britain aspires to be at the forefront among countries that continue to pump weapons into Ukraine," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

"We repeat once again, it cannot yield any drastic and fundamental influence on the way the special military operation is unfolding."

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