Ukrainian leader holds talks with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, addresses Parliament and meets UK military chiefs amid a possible fresh Russian offensive as fighting enters its 350th day.

Birtain is one of the biggest military backers of Ukraine and has sent the country more than $2.5 billion in weapons and equipment.
Birtain is one of the biggest military backers of Ukraine and has sent the country more than $2.5 billion in weapons and equipment. (Stefan Rousseau / AFP)

Wednesday, February 08, 2023

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has pushed for fighter jets to ensure his country's victory over Russia in a dramatic speech before the UK Parliament, where he also thanked the British people for their support since "day one” of Moscow's military offence. 

The embattled leader's surprise visit to Britain in a bid for more advanced weapons comes as Ukraine braces for an expected Russian offensive and hatches its own plans to retake land held by Moscow's forces. Western support has been key to Kiev's surprisingly stiff defence, and the two sides are engaged in grinding battles.

At a joint news conference in front of a tank at the Lulworth Camp training base, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said fighter jets were “part of the conversation” about support for Ukraine. “Nothing is off the table,” he said.

Here are some other developments:

1812 GMT - Russia vows 'response' if UK sends planes to Ukraine

Russia has said that it would respond if Britain sends warplanes to Ukraine, warning of an escalation.

"Russia will find a response to any unfriendly steps taken by the British side," Moscow's embassy in London said on Wednesday in a statement carried by Russian news agencies.

The Russian embassy said that London would bear responsibility for the "'bloody harvest' of the next round of escalation as well as military and political consequences ensuing from this for the European continent and the whole world."

1641GMT - Russia sanctions 77 Americans in tit-for-tat move

Russia has hit dozens of US politicians and officials with sanctions in what it said was a retaliatory move for Washington's support for Kiev and a response to the West's own unprecedented package of sanctions against Moscow.

Russia's foreign ministry said on Wednesday it was permanently barring some 77 US citizens from entering Russia, as it attacked Washington's "hostile actions".

The list is made up of 33 governors of US states and a host of other mid-ranking state and federal officials.

The United States and its allies, including Britain and the European Union, have added hundreds of members of Russia's political and business elites to their own sanctions lists since Moscow's attack on Ukraine last February.

1600 GMT - German minister: First battalion of Leopard 2 tanks could reach Ukraine in March/April

Western partners could deliver the first battalion of Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine in the first three or four months of this year, German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said on a trip to the Polish capital.

"We could deliver at least one battalion in the first four months of this year - three months maybe - and then we need to proceed as fast as possible of course," Pistorius said on Wednesday, adding that a battalion would consist of about 31 tanks.

Almost a year after Russia's military offence of Ukraine, Poland and Germany were united in their responsibility to support Kiev, said Pistorius, adding that the two countries had agreed to meet next week to decide on delıvery of Leopard 2 battle tanks.

Responding to repeated appeals from Ukraine, and after mounting pressure from some Western allies, Germany last month said it would deliver modern Leopard 2 battle tanks from army stocks.

1132 GMT - UK announces new round of Russia sanctions over Ukraine war

The British government has announced a fresh round of sanctions targeting Russia over its attack on Ukraine.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly on Wednesday said the new sanctions on organisations that Russian President Vladimir Putin's military relied on would "accelerate the economic pressure on Putin - undermining his war machine to help Ukraine prevail".

The sanctions package, announced as Zelenskyy visited the UK, would hit six organisations providing military equipment such as drones. It would also target eight individuals and one organisation connected to "nefarious financial networks that help maintain wealth and power amongst Kremlin elites", the government said in a statement.

0805 GMT - Zelenskyy to visit UK on Wednesday: Britain

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will visit Britain on Wednesday, his first trip to the UK since the war with Russia began nearly a year ago and only his second confirmed journey outside Ukraine during the war.

The British government says Zelenskyy will hold talks with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, address Parliament and meet with UK military chiefs.

The UK is one of the biggest military backers of Ukraine and has sent the country more than 2 billion pounds ($2.5 billion) in weapons and equipment.

The visit comes as Sunak announced that Britain will train Ukrainian pilots on “NATO-standard fighter jets.” Ukraine has urged its allies to send jets, though the U.K. says it’s not practical to provide the Ukrainian military with British warplanes.

0955 GMT — Fire breaks out at Russian oil refinery near Ukrainian border

A fire broke out at an oil refinery in Russia's southern Rostov region near the border with Ukraine and was later extinguished, state media reported, citing the emergencies ministry.

"In Rostov Region, Novoshakhtinsk city ... a message was received at 10:24 a.m. Moscow time about a fire on the territory of an oil products processing plant," the emergencies ministry said.

The fire broke out over an area of about 100 square metres and was extinguished around an hour later, Interfax news agency reported, adding that the small refinery belonged to a company called Resource LLC.

It cited the emergency service as saying that according to preliminary information, the blaze was caused by a "violation of technological process".

Novoshakhtinsk is about 9 km (6 miles) from the Ukrainian border. Another refinery in Novoshakhtinsk was struck by two drones last June, in what the plant authorities called "terrorist actions from the western border", a reference to Ukraine.

2200 GMT (Tuesday) — Ukraine anticipates new Russian offensive

Ukraine's national security chief has said Kiev expects Russia to include the northeastern Kharkiv or southern Zaporizhzhia regions as targets of an anticipated offensive aimed at reclaiming the initiative in its year-old offensive.

Oleksiy Danilov, head of the National Security and Defence Council, said Russian forces were probing Kiev's defences in partially Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia, part of a Moscow-controlled land bridge between eastern Ukraine and Crimea on the southern Black Sea coast.

In an interview with the Reuters news agency, he also said Kiev "doesn't exclude" a new Russian push in the Kharkiv region, from which Moscow's forces were repelled by a lightning Ukrainian counter-offensive last summer.

"Attempts at an offensive in either the Kharkiv or Zaporizhzhia direction will of course be made," he said, speaking in his office in the capital, Kiev. "How successful they'll be will depend on us."

2157 GMT — Ukraine to get tanks to repel Russia's spring offensive

Ukraine should have a double-digit number of German-made Leopard 1 tanks at its disposal in the first quarter, German vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck has said, adding it was unclear exactly how many of the authorized 178 tanks would be sent.

"The numbers are there but they have to be refurbished for battle, re-equipped, so we don't know exactly how many," he told reporters after meeting US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in Washington. 

"But it's a large number to repel Russia's spring offensive."

Asked whether the decision to send them, taken after months of mounting pressure on Berlin, should have been taken earlier, Habeck said: "I hope the decision was taken at just the right time."

2149 GMT — Biden approves $10B HIMARS sale to Poland

The Biden administration has approved a prospective $10 billion sale of the US's High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) to Poland as NATO continues to push back against Russia's war in Ukraine.

Under the terms of the proposed sale, Poland would receive 18 units of the light multiple rocket launcher systems, 468 HIMARS Launcher Loa der Module kits, 45 M57 Army Tactical Missile Systems and 461 M30A2 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System Alternative Warhead (GMLRS-AW) pods with the Insensitive Munitions Propulsion System (IMPS), the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said in a statement.

In addition, the potential sale includes 521 M31A2 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System Unitary (GMLRS-U) pods with the Insensitive Munitions Propulsion System (IMPS) and 532 XM403 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System Extended Range Alternative Warhead (GMLRS-ER AW) pods. 

For live updates from Tuesday (February 7), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies