Rishi Sunak made a surprise visit to Kyiv on Saturday to meet Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky, in his first visit to the country since taking office.
Zelensky posted a video on Saturday showing his meeting with Sunak in the capital. “During today’s meeting, we discussed the most important issues for both our countries and for global security,” he wrote on messaging app Telegram.
A No 10 spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister is here Ukraine Today on his first visit to Kyiv to meet with President Zelensky and reaffirm the UK’s continued support.”
Following in the footsteps of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, Sunak has pledged that the UK’s support for Ukraine in the fight against Russia will remain unwavering.
The prime minister, who has spoken to Zelensky on more than one occasion since entering Downing Street, took advantage of his G20 appearance this week to join allies and other Western leaders to condemn Vladimir Putin’s invasion.
Sunak’s arrival coincided with the announcement of a £50m defense aid package consisting of 125 anti-aircraft guns and technology to help Ukraine counter Iranian-supplied drones, including radars and anti-drone technology.
Sunak laid flowers at a memorial to the war dead in Kyiv and lit a candle at a memorial to the Holodomor famine victims, before meeting emergency personnel at a fire station.
Being in Kyiv, he said, was “a very humbling thing”. He said: “I am here today to say that the UK and our allies will continue to stand by Ukraine, as it fights to end this barbaric war and achieve a just peace.”
While the Ukrainian Armed Forces succeed in pushing back the Russian forces on the ground, civilians are being brutally bombed from the air. Today we are introducing new air defense, including anti-aircraft guns, radar and anti-drone equipment, and increased humanitarian support for the cold, harsh winter.
“It is a very humbling thing to be in Kyiv today and to have the opportunity to meet those who do so much, and pay so dearly.”
The visit comes as Kyiv and many other regions of Ukraine are experiencing power shortages following relentless Russian attacks on critical infrastructure.
The head of Ukraine’s largest private energy company on Saturday urged Ukrainians to consider leaving their country to help save energy.
Moscow, in an effort to force Ukraine to negotiate a peace unacceptable to Kiev, has sought to destroy the country’s energy system with a series of mass strikes on energy and thermal infrastructures. No power system has ever experienced such powerful air strikes that threaten such long periods of blackouts.
With temperatures dipping below freezing and the first snow of the season hitting the streets of Kyiv this week, people across Ukraine are beginning to worry about how to heat their homes due to power outages caused by Russian bombing while officials struggle to restore power across the country.
In an interview with the BBC, Maksym Timchenko, CEO of energy company DTEK, said that Ukraine’s electricity system was becoming less reliable with each Russian attack.
Timchenko suggested that reducing electricity consumption was the key to keeping it running.
“If Ukrainians can find an alternative place to stay for another three or four months, it will be very beneficial for the regime,” he said, suggesting that people should view leaving the country as a way to help win the war against Russia.
“If you consume less, then hospitals with wounded soldiers will ensure energy supplies,” Timchenko added. “This is how it can be explained that by consuming less or leaving, they also contribute to helping others.”
About 10 million people were cut off from electricity, Zelensky said, describing the electricity situation in more than a dozen regions as “very difficult.”
“The energy supply situation is difficult in 17 regions and in the capital,” he said. “Things are very difficult in the Kyiv region, the city of Kyiv, the Odessa region, as well as Vinnytsia and Ternopil [areas in western Ukraine]. ”
Zelensky knows that the cold is one of the biggest obstacles in this war. He’s known her for months. Even at the end of August, he was warning residents of “troubled times ahead”.
Two days ago, Zelensky was more visible. “If we survive this winter, and we will, Ukraine will definitely win this war,” he said.
Ukraine’s president’s office said fighting was still raging in Ukraine’s southeastern Zaporizhia region, as Russian forces unleashed a vast arsenal, including drones, missiles, heavy artillery and warplanes that killed at least six civilians and wounded six more.
The death toll from a Russian missile attack on a residential building in the city of Vilnyansk, Zaporizhia region, on Thursday rose to 10, including three children.
Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office said Saturday that at least 437 Ukrainian children have been killed and more than 837 injured as a result of the Russian invasion.
The prosecutor’s office said the eastern Donetsk region was worst affected, with 423 children killed or injured.
Officials said the numbers are “not final” because they are still checking information from areas of active combat, liberated areas and territory still occupied by Russian forces.
AFP, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report