Rishi Sunak embraces ‘inspiration’ Zelensky during talks at Chequers


The Kremlin issued a chilling warning of ‘retaliatory actions’ today as Rishi Sunak pledged more support for Ukraine during talks with Volodymyr Zelensky at Chequers.

Moscow lashed out after the PM committed to supplying air defence missiles and drones, and vowed to push for more international aid when he attends the G7 gathering in Japan and Council of Europe in Reykjavik this week.

Mr Zelensky and Mr Sunak greeted each other with a hug after the president arrived at the PM’s country retreat in Chinook helicopters for his surprise visit this morning.

As the teams sat down in the historic Hawtrey Room, Mr Sunak pointed out that Winston Churchill had made many of his inspirational wartime speeches from that spot.

Last week it emerged the UK had become the first country to provide long-range precision missiles to Ukraine.

The Storm Shadow cruise missiles, accurate to beyond 150 miles, are expected to be at the heart of the much anticipated counter-offensive against Russian occupiers.

But the prospect of the UK supplying fighter jet has effectively disappeared, despite Mr Zelensky visiting in February and presenting Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle with a pilot’s helmet in a not-so-subtle hint of what he wanted from the UK.

Instead the RAF will help train Ukrainian forces to use Western jets, with No10 insisting Kyiv has ‘decided’ to focus on F-16s – which Britain does not use. Mr Sunak is expected to urge other countries to provide the airframes that Ukraine wants.

Mr Zelensky said his people are grateful ‘from our hearts’ for the support the UK had provided.  

Rishi Sunak and Volodymyr Zelensky held talks in the historic residence along with their close teams

Rishi Sunak and Volodymyr Zelensky held talks in the historic residence along with their close teams

Mr Sunak pointed out that the room they were using had been the scene of some of Churchill's war speeches

Mr Sunak pointed out that the room they were using had been the scene of some of Churchill’s war speeches

The British and Ukrainian teams perched on sofas as they took stock of the situation in the war against Russia

The British and Ukrainian teams perched on sofas as they took stock of the situation in the war against Russia

Mr Sunak and Mr Zelensky seemed delighted to see each other as they discussed progress against Russian forces

Mr Sunak and Mr Zelensky seemed delighted to see each other as they discussed progress against Russian forces

The two leaders greeted each other with a hug after the Ukraine president landed in Chinook helicopters

The two leaders greeted each other with a hug after the Ukraine president landed in Chinook helicopters

Mr Sunak pointed out Mr Zelensky was the first world leader he had entertained at Chequers and suggested it will be a 'crucial' week in the struggle against Russia

Mr Sunak pointed out Mr Zelensky was the first world leader he had entertained at Chequers and suggested it will be a ‘crucial’ week in the struggle against Russia

Mr Sunak tweeted a picture of the pair meeting with the message 'welcome back'

Mr Sunak tweeted a picture of the pair meeting with the message ‘welcome back’

Volodymyr Zelensky has jetted in to the UK to meet Rishi Sunak ahead of a 'crucial' week in the struggle against Russia

Volodymyr Zelensky has jetted in to the UK to meet Rishi Sunak ahead of a ‘crucial’ week in the struggle against Russia

Mr Zelensky revealed he was visiting London in a message on Twitter this morning

Mr Zelensky revealed he was visiting London in a message on Twitter this morning

Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov said of the latest pledge from the UK: ‘We feel extremely negative about this.’

Peskov raised the prospect of ‘retaliatory actions’ and said Ukraine was making the situation ‘more difficult’. 

‘We repeat once again, this cannot have any significant and fundamental impact on the course of the special military operation, but, of course, it leads to further destructions, it leads to further retaliatory actions. That is, it makes this story much more difficult for Ukraine,’ he said.

Mr Zelensky was in Paris for talks with Emmanuel Macron yesterday following a summit with EU commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, Poland’s PM Mateusz Morawiecki and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Aachen over the weekend.

Mr Sunak told the Ukrainian president today: ‘You are actually the first foreign leader I have had the privilege of welcoming here as Prime Minister and there’s a lot of great history here.

‘In fact this room that we are standing in, Winston Churchill made many of his famous speeches in World War Two from this room.

‘And the same way today, your leadership, your country’s bravery and fortitude are an inspiration to us all.’

Mr Zelensky said he discussed western fighter jets with Mr Sunak and that he was anticipating ‘very important decisions’ being made soon.

He said: ‘Today we spoke about the jets. Very important topic for us because we can’t control the sky.’

He stressed that Ukraine and the UK were ‘real partners’, with Mr Sunak aware of details of developments on the battlefield.

‘We want to create this jets coalition and I’m very positive with it.

‘We spoke about it and I see that in the closest time you will hear some, I think very important decisions but we have to work a little bit more on it.’

Mr Sunak vowed to send a ‘message of solidarity’ as Ukraine tries to kick out Vladimir Putin’s invading forces, saying it is in ‘all our interests’ that Mr Zelensky succeeds. 

He said the talks covered the ‘security arrangements we should put in place among allied countries for Ukraine for the long term to ensure it can defend itself and provide effective deterrence against future Russian aggression’.

Chequers has been the country residence of the PM of the day for decades

Chequers has been the country residence of the PM of the day for decades

The two leaders took a stroll around the grounds at Chequers during their discussions this morning

The two leaders took a stroll around the grounds at Chequers during their discussions this morning

The UK confirmed today that it will supply hundreds of air defence missiles and new long-range attack drones with a range of over 125 miles. 

Mr Zelensky last came to the UK in February, when he addressed both Houses of Parliament in Westminster Hall.

Mr Zelensky tweeted: ‘Today – London. The UK is a leader when it comes to expanding our capabilities on the ground and in the air.

‘This cooperation will continue today. I will meet my friend Rishi. We will conduct substantive negotiations face-to-face and in delegations.’

Mr Sunak said the UK will be ‘sustaining our support’ for Ukraine.

The PM said: ‘This is a crucial moment in Ukraine’s resistance to a terrible war of aggression they did not choose or provoke.

‘They need the sustained support of the international community to defend against the barrage of unrelenting and indiscriminate attacks that have been their daily reality for over a year.

‘We must not let them down.

‘The frontlines of Putin’s war of aggression may be in Ukraine but the fault lines stretch all over the world. It is in all our interest to ensure Ukraine succeeds and Putin’s barbarism is not rewarded.

‘That is why the UK is sustaining our support to Ukraine – from tanks to training, ammunition to armoured vehicles. And this message of solidarity will ring loud in all my meetings with fellow world leaders in the days ahead.’

Mr Zelensky met Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris yesterday

Mr Zelensky met Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris yesterday



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