LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s office said late on Saturday that Britain would send 14 of its main battle tanks along with additional artillery support to Ukraine, brushing off criticism from the Russian embassy in London.
A squadron of 14 Challenger 2 tanks will go to the country in the coming weeks, the British Prime Minister’s office said in a statement, and about 30 AS90 self-propelled guns, manned by five gunners, are expected to follow.
The UK will also start training Ukrainian forces to use tanks and artillery in the coming days.
“As the people of Ukraine approach their second year of living under relentless Russian bombing, the Prime Minister is dedicated to ensuring that Ukraine wins this war,” a spokesperson for the prime minister said in a statement.
Together with his closest military advisers, he analyzed the military picture, looked at the strategic impact of British support and identified a window where he believed the UK and its allies could have maximum impact.
The announcement follows a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky earlier on Saturday, during which Sunak outlined “the UK’s ambition to step up our support to Ukraine, including through the provision of Challenger 2 tanks and additional artillery systems.”
Sunak’s office said earlier this week that Britain would coordinate its support with allies after Germany, France and the United States indicated last week that they would provide armored vehicles to Ukraine.
The office also said the defense secretary would brief the UK parliament on details of the security support on Monday.
The Russian embassy in London said the decision to send tanks would prolong the confrontation and lead to more casualties, including civilians, evidence of London’s “increasingly clear involvement in the conflict”.
“As for the Challenger 2 tanks, they are unlikely to help the Armed Forces of Ukraine turn the tide on the battlefield, but they will become a major legitimate target for Russian artillery,” the embassy said. news agency.
The Challenger 2 is a battle tank designed to attack other tanks, and it has been in service with the British Army since 1994. It has been deployed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Iraq, according to the Army.
“The prime minister and President Zelensky welcomed other international commitments in this context, including Poland’s offer to provide a company of Leopard tanks,” Sunak’s spokesman said.
Zelensky, in his nightly video address released before the detailed British announcement, described the expected aid as “important” for Ukraine’s defence.
“This is what we really need,” Zelensky said. “And I believe that similar decisions will still be made by other partners – those who understand why such evil cannot be given a single chance.”
(Reporting by Michael Holden and Lydia Kelly) Editing by Mark Heinrich, Angus McSwan, Thomas Janowski and Deba Babbington
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