President Zelensky thanks UK for training Ukrainian military on home soil

More than 20 soldiers arrived last week for training on 120 vehicles being supplied to Kyiv’s resistance.

Patrick Daly
Saturday 23 April 2022 22:58 BST
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has thanked Britain for training his troops how to use UK armoured vehicles that will be given over to Kyiv (Ukraine Government/PA)
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has thanked Britain for training his troops how to use UK armoured vehicles that will be given over to Kyiv (Ukraine Government/PA)

Volodymyr Zelensky has thanked the Prime Minister for currently training members of the Ukrainian military on UK soil.

Boris Johnson spoke to the Ukrainian president on Saturday afternoon for an update on Kyiv’s conflict with Russia, according to Downing Street.

Offering a readout of the phone call, a No 10 spokesman said: “President Zelensky thanked the Prime Minister for the training of Ukrainian military personnel currently taking place in the UK.”

It comes after Mr Johnson confirmed for the first time during his trade trip to India this week that Ukrainian forces were in the UK.

More than 20 soldiers arrived last week for training on the 120 armoured vehicles that are being supplied to the resistance against Moscow, the Government has said.

The talks came as Ukrainian officials said Russian forces had started attacking a steel plant in the battered city of Mariupol in an apparent bid to eliminate the last stand by Kyiv’s defenders.

An estimated 1,000 civilians and remain sheltered in the Azovstal plant alongside the remaining 2,000 Ukrainian fighters.

Vladimir Putin only two days ago ordered that Russian troops not be sent into the plant but instead that the facility be blocked off, in an apparent attempt to starve out the Ukrainians and force their surrender.

Russian forces have started attacking a steel plant in Mariupol housing the last Ukrainian defenders and civilians, according to Kyiv officials (Alexei Alexandrov/PA)

With the battle for Donbas raging in the east, the offensive marks renewed targeting of the south of the country, with officials declaring that a Russian cruise missile in Odesa killed six people, including a three-month-old baby.

During Mr Johnson and Mr Zelensky’s telephone conversation, the Ukraine leader provided an update on the situation in the Donbas and they both joined in condemning attacks by Russian forces against civilian targets, including in Mariupol and Odesa, as well as in Lviv in western Ukraine.

The Prime Minister said the UK was working to “develop a long-term security solution for Ukraine”, as he also brought up international efforts to provide Ukraine with “further financial support” for the war, including conversations held at the G7 finance ministers’ meeting on Wednesday.

A No 10 spokesman said Mr Johnson ran through the “defensive military aid” being supplied by the UK to help reinforce Ukraine’s defenders, including drones and more anti-tank weapons, as well as the armoured vehicles that Kyiv’s troops are being trained to use.

“The Prime Minister ended by reiterating the UK’s unwavering support for the people of Ukraine and committed to continue working with international partners to provide the assistance necessary to help Ukraine defend itself,” said the spokesman.

As well as being trained on the Mastiff, Wolfhound and Husky armoured vehicles, the Ukrainians are being shown how to use the Samaritan ambulance, and Sultan and Samson armoured reconnaissance vehicles while over in Britain.

In a press conference in Kyiv on Saturday, Mr Zelensky declared that he was “satisfied” with the level of military supporting coming from the UK.

He told reporters: “We want more than we’re being given, but we’re satisfied.

“We cannot refuse or reject anything during the war from the biggest military aid, which is coming from the United States and the United Kingdom.

“There are many other friends in Europe, but I’m talking about volumes of help and I’m grateful for it.”

London has been one of Ukraine’s closest allies in terms of supplying Nato-class weapons, both in the run-up to and during Russia’s invasion.

But former defence secretary Michael Fallon has accused the UK of being reluctant to support Kyiv in the aftermath of Mr Putin’s annexing of Crimea in 2014.

He told The Sunday Times that, when serving under former prime minister David Cameron, he was told to turn down requests for assistance in upgrading Ukraine’s defences despite the Ministry of Defence wanting “to do more”.

“We were stymied and we were blocked in Cabinet from sending the Ukrainians the arms they needed,” Mr Fallon told the newspaper.

“Some in the Cabinet felt extremely strongly that we should do nothing to further provoke Russia.

“I felt that was absurd. The Russians didn’t need any provoking. They were already there, sending people across the border.”

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