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UK to train Ukrainian pilots, marines and supply longer-range weapons to Kyiv.

by The Kyiv Independent news desk February 8, 2023 1:02 PM 3 min read
This audio is created with AI assistance

The U.K. will train Ukrainian pilots and marines and provide longer-range weapons to Kyiv, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's office said on Feb. 8.

The announcement was made ahead of President Volodymyr Zelensky's visit to the U.K.

"I am proud that today we will expand that training from soldiers to marines and fighter jet pilots, ensuring Ukraine has a military able to defend its interests well into the future," Sunak said. "It also underlines our commitment to not just provide military equipment for the short term, but a long-term pledge to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Ukraine for years to come."

Sunak's office said that "the training will ensure pilots are able to fly sophisticated NATO-standard fighter jets in the future."

The statement indicates that the West may eventually supply Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets. However, so far Western countries have refused to deliver F-16s to Ukraine.

Editorial: Arming Ukraine won’t escalate war. Reluctance to do so will

The prime minister's office also said that the U.K. would "offer to provide Ukraine with longer range capabilities" in an effort to disrupt "Russia’s ability to continually target Ukraine’s civilian and critical national infrastructure and help relieve pressure on Ukraine’s frontlines."

The HIMARS missiles that Ukraine currently uses have a range of 80 kilometers and cannot reach many of the Russian-occupied areas.

So far, the U.S. has refused to supply Ukraine with ATACMS missiles, which have a range of 300 kilometers.

On Feb. 3, the U.S. announced it would supply Ukraine with GLSDB missiles, which can travel for 150 kilometers. However, Bloomberg reported that they are likely to arrive in Ukraine in nine months, which may be too late for repelling a Russian offensive or launching a Ukrainian counter-offensive.

Sunak's office added that Zelensky would address the British parliament and meet Sunak and defense and security chiefs, including the Chief of Defense Staff and Chief of the Air Staff, to discuss the details of the training program.

"President Zelensky’s visit to the UK is a testament to his country’s courage, determination and fight, and a testament to the unbreakable friendship between our two countries," Sunak said.

Sunak and Zelensky will "discuss a two-pronged approach to UK support for Ukraine, starting with an immediate surge of military equipment to the country to help counter Russia’s spring offensive, and reinforced by long-term support," according to the prime minister's office.

The office said that the U.K. would also announce further sanctions in response to Russia’s continued bombardment of Ukraine, "including the targeting of those who have helped Putin build his personal wealth, and companies who are profiting from the Kremlin’s war machine."

Zelensky's visit comes as Ukraine is seeking to obtain better weapons to withstand a potential Russian offensive and liberate Ukrainian territory.

Critics argue that allies’ reluctance to supply F-16 fighters and long-range ATACMS missiles to Ukraine will prevent Kyiv from launching a major counteroffensive and liberating the rest of Ukrainian territory. Ukraine’s lack of advanced aircraft and missiles will likely prolong Russia’s war of aggression and result in thousands of deaths.

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