Politics

Rishi Sunak is to urge fellow world leaders to “move faster” to arm Ukraine’s troops as he leads a minute’s silence on the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion.

The prime minister is expected to use a G7 meeting on Friday to call on allies to supply longer-range weapons to Ukraine as there is an urgent need for Kyiv to gain a “decisive advantage” on the battlefield.

Mr Sunak will lead the UK in a minute’s silence at 11am to mark the anniversary in front of the Downing Street door.

He will be joined by the Ukrainian Ambassador to the UK, Vadym Prystaiko, members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and representatives from each of the 11 nations that are part of the British-led Ukrainian troop training programme, Operation Interflex.

UN demands Russia withdraw troops – Ukraine war latest

“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,” Mr Sunak is expected to tell G7 leaders in a virtual meeting.

“This must be our priority now. Instead of an incremental approach, we need to move faster on artillery, armour, and air defence.

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“The coming weeks will be difficult for Ukraine, but they will also be difficult for Russia. They are overreaching once again. So now is the time to support Ukraine’s plan to re-arm, regroup, and push forward.”

Mr Sunak will also reiterate his offer of UK support to countries able to provide jets to Ukraine as he and his wife, Akshata Murty, hang a blue and yellow wreath on the door of Number 10.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called on Western countries to send fighter jets to Ukraine and while the UK has announced training for Ukrainian pilots on NATO-standard jets it has not sent any planes.

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14:05

Johnson: ‘Send jets to Ukraine’

Former PM Boris Johnson has joined those calls and told Sky News on Thursday the UK needs to “break the ice” by becoming the first country to supply Ukraine with the aircraft.

But so far, neither Mr Sunak or his defence secretary Ben Wallace have not made a steadfast commitment to do so.

Sky News exclusively reported on Thursday the Treasury has signalled there is no new money for defence, despite recognising the urgent need to rearm in the wake of the war.

As things stand, the British army would run out of ammunition within a few days if called upon to fight and would take up to 10 years to field a modern warfighting division of some 25,000 to 30,000 troops.

Read more:
PM has ‘no interest in defence’ as UK ammo stockpiles proved ‘inadequate’ by war
Ukraine war: The race to rearm could decide who wins the conflict
British prisoner of war in Ukraine reveals Russian torture methods

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3:43

A look back on a year of war in Ukraine

On the eve of the anniversary, Mr Sunak said: “As we mark one year since a full-scale war broke out on our continent, I urge everyone to reflect on the courage and bravery of our Ukrainian friends who, every hour since, have fought heroically for their country.

“I am proud that the UK has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Ukraine through this horrific conflict.

“As I stand with brave Ukrainian soldiers outside Downing Street today, my thoughts will be with all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend freedom and return peace to Europe.”

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Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who met Mr Zelenskyy in Kyiv recently, said the UK’s support “is as firm and unstinting today as it was on that dark day one year ago”.

He said his party stands “in lockstep with the government” in continuing support to Ukraine “regardless of what other political disagreements we may have”.

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