UK and EU pledge more support for Ukraine as Boris Johnson visits Kyiv

The UK and EU have pledged increased financial support to help Ukraine defend against Russia and rebuild after the conflict, as the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met Volodymyr Zelensky in kyiv.

During an unannounced visit to the Ukrainian capital on Saturday, Johnson said Zelensky had achieved “the greatest feat of the 21st century” in resisting Russian forces and praised Ukraine for “defying the odds”.

He said the UK would send Ukraine 120 armored vehicles, anti-ship missile systems and provide additional economic support, and accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of war crimes in Ukrainian territories that troops of Moscow had invaded.

Speaking in Kyiv, which was nearly surrounded by Russian troops just weeks ago, Johnson said it was clear Putin “has suffered defeat but his retreat is tactical and he will now step up the pressure in the Donbass and to the east”.

The Ukrainian army has warned that Russian troops are regrouping and preparing an offensive towards the East. Ukrainian authorities have urged civilians in the Donbass region and around the city of Kharkiv to evacuate.

After their meeting, Zelensky called Johnson “one of the most principled opponents of the Russian invasion, a leader in pushing for sanctions against Russia and supporting the defense of Ukraine.”

The trip and announcement came days after Ukraine’s president pleaded with the international community to provide more military supplies and impose tougher sanctions on Russia after his foreign minister said he had a NATO demand: “Weapons, weapons and weapons”.

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said in a tweet that Johnson was “the first G7 leader to arrive in Ukraine since the start of full-scale warfare.”

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Johnson said the UK would more than double its loan guarantee to Ukraine through the World Bank to $1 billion, subject to parliamentary approval, and liberalize tariffs on the big majority of goods coming from the country and would facilitate customs controls.

This support comes on top of the £100 million worth of military equipment announced by the UK on Friday, including anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles, body armor and helmets for Ukrainian forces.

“We are strengthening our own military and economic support and convening a global alliance to end this tragedy and ensure Ukraine’s survival and prosperity as a free and sovereign nation,” he said.

Hours earlier, also in Kyiv, Zelensky had met Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer to discuss what the Ukrainian president described as Vienna’s “full support for Ukraine’s future membership in the European Union family”. and “a policy of strong sanctions against Russia”.

Meanwhile, the European Commission has pledged €1 billion to a €9.1 billion fund to support Ukraine and other states hosting war refugees.

The additional financial support from Brussels is part of an international fundraising effort that has attracted €4.1 billion in contributions from governments, businesses and individuals, and €5 billion in loans and grants European public financial institutions.

The commission said it would provide €600 million to support displaced people in Ukraine and €400 million to frontline states hosting Ukrainian refugees.

“And more will come,” said Ursula von der Leyen, chair of the commission. “Once the bombs stop falling, we will help the Ukrainian people to rebuild their country.”

Nearly 4.5 million people have fled Ukraine since the start of the conflict, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, of whom more than 2.5 million are in Poland. A further 7.1 million people were internally displaced.

On Friday, the IMF announced it had opened an account to channel donor funds to Ukraine, as countries opposed to the Russian invasion seek to exert more pressure on Moscow.

The account will receive grants and loans “aimed at helping Ukraine meet its balance of payments and fiscal needs and stabilize its economy,” the IMF said.

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