'We will be there to the end': Shapps vows UK will back Ukraine until war is over, as Britain gives £245m military aid

24 February 2024, 09:22 | Updated: 24 February 2024, 11:05

Grant Shapps has vowed that Britain will back Ukraine 'to the end'
Grant Shapps has vowed that Britain will back Ukraine 'to the end'. Picture: Alamy/LBC

By Kit Heren

Grant Shapps has vowed that Britain will support Ukraine "to the end" of its war with Russia, as the government announced a further £250 million in military support.

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The "£245 million of good news" announced by the Defence Secretary on Saturday will re-stock Kyiv's reserves of artillery ammunition - a key factor in its battle against Russia.

It comes on the second anniversary of Russia's invasion. Ukraine has defied the odds by holding Russia off, but there are signs of war fatigue among some allies, including the US, as the human and financial costs grow ever higher.

Boris Johnson is in Kyiv to mark the occasion, alongside European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and the prime ministers of Italy, Canada and Belgium.

Mr Shapps denied that Britain was also wavering in its support of Ukraine, whose citizens he described as "incredibly brave". But he added that they are “urgently in need of more munitions, and that’s why we’re stepping up today."

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Paraphrasing Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, he said that “the UK has been first and foremost in its support, has been solid right there from day one, actually before the start, and will be right there till the end, because in Britain it’s in our interests not to have countries, neighbouring countries, walked in to - invaded - by a despotic leader like Putin, and to then turn a blind eye.

"Eventually that cost and the own misery will appear for our own citizens as well - quite apart from the fact that it’s clearly wrong to see a country invaded.

"So I think… Brits are very proud of this country’s absolutely leading role in ensuring Putin can’t walk across Europe."

Making the announcement earlier, Mr Shapps said that Ukraine's "steadfast determination and resilience" continued to "inspire the world".

A woman next to flags bearing symbols and colours of Ukraine set to commemorate fallen Ukrainian army soldiers at Independence Square in Kyiv, on February 24, 2024, on the second anniversary of Russia's invasion
A woman next to flags bearing symbols and colours of Ukraine set to commemorate fallen Ukrainian army soldiers at Independence Square in Kyiv, on February 24, 2024, on the second anniversary of Russia's invasion. Picture: Getty

He said: "Against all odds, the armed forces of Ukraine have pushed back the Russian invaders to recapture half of the land Putin stole, while significantly degrading Russia's capabilities - with around 30% of Russia's Black Sea Fleet destroyed or damaged, and thousands of tanks and armoured vehicles reduced to scrap.

"But they cannot win this fight without the support of the international community - and that's why we continue to do what it takes to ensure Ukraine can continue to fight towards victory.

"Nearly a quarter of a billion pounds' worth of UK funding will boost their critical stockpiles of artillery ammunition, while the Royal Air Force completes a further delivery of advanced tank-busting missiles.

"Together, we will ensure Putin fails, and a victory for democracy, the rules-based international order, and the Ukrainian people."

Ukrainian servicemen ride on tanks towards the front line nearly two years ago
Ukrainian servicemen ride on tanks towards the front line nearly two years ago. Picture: Getty

Saturday's announcement follows confirmation on Thursday that the UK had delivered a further 200 Brimstone anti-tank missiles to Ukraine.

Other military equipment provided by the UK includes Challenger 2 tanks and long-range Storm Shadow missiles, while British forces have given training to Ukrainian soldiers in the UK and the Government continues to provide humanitarian assistance.

Marking the second anniversary of the conflict, Rishi Sunak said it was "the moment to show that tyranny will never triumph and to say once again that we will stand with Ukraine today and tomorrow".

Watch again: Sir Richard Dearlove takes your calls with Nick Ferrari

He said: "I was in Kyiv just a few weeks ago and I met wounded Ukrainian soldiers. Each harrowing story was a reminder of Ukraine's courage in the face of terrible suffering.

"It was a reminder of the price they are paying not only to defend their country against a completely unjustified invasion, but also to defend the very principles of freedom, sovereignty and the rule of law, on which we all depend.

"The UK is going further in our support. I announced last month the biggest single package of defence aid to Ukraine, taking our total support to £12 billion and signed a ten-year agreement on security co-operation - the first of its kind."

Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Picture: Getty

Also speaking on the second anniversary of the conflict, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer praised Ukraine's "strength, resilience and courage" and recommitted his party to supporting their resistance to the Russian invasion.

He said: "When I met President Zelensky in Kyiv one year ago, I assured him that Britain stands united with Ukraine.

"That promise stands firm. No matter who is in power in this country, Britain will always back Ukraine.

"We will stand with them for as long as it takes to win, because we know it is not just the future of Ukraine at stake, but the future of democracy and global stability. We cannot and will not allow the cowardice and barbarity of Putin to prevail."

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