UK pledges extra £1.3bn in military support for Zelenskyy’s forces to fight ‘Putin’s brutal attack’

A further £1.3bn in military support will be provide by the UK to Ukrainian forces as they fight against Russia’s invasion.

The escalation of British assistance for Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s forces is the highest rate of UK military spending on a conflict since the height of the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The £1.3bn, drawn from the UK’s reserves, includes £300m of military kit promised by Boris Johnson earlier this week.

Mr Johnson, US President Joe Biden and leaders from other G7 nations will hold talks with Ukrainian president Mr Zelenskyy on Sunday to discuss the additional support on offer.

Troops brace for attacks around Russia’s victory day – live updates

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Mariupol steelworks frustrates Russian forces

The military kit promised by Mr Johnson includes anti-battery radar systems to target Russian artillery, GPS jamming equipment and night vision devices.

The news comes as Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, Iryna Vereshchuk, said all remaining women, children, and elderly people have been able to leave the Azovstal steel plant in the besieged city of Mariupol.

She said: “The president’s order has been carried out: all women, children and the elderly have been evacuated from Azovstal. This part of the Mariupol humanitarian operation has been completed.”

Cities across Ukraine are preparing for an expected increase in attacks ahead of Russia celebrating its traditional victory day on Monday.

Johnson to meet arms companies over production

Mr Johnson will host a meeting of arms companies later this month to discuss increasing production in response to the demand created by the conflict in Ukraine.

Officials said the announcement would help support the British arms industry, which could benefit from the global shift away from reliance on equipment from Vladimir Putin’s sanction-hit Russia.

The PM said: “Putin’s brutal attack is not only causing untold devastation in Ukraine, it is also threatening peace and security across Europe.”

The funding comes on top of earlier commitments worth about £1.5bn, which included £400m in humanitarian aid and loan guarantees for £700m in additional World Bank lending.

US promises artillery shells and radars

President Biden has promised a package including artillery shells, radars and other military equipment.

Sunday’s virtual meeting of G7 leaders could also consider additional sanctions on Russia.

The White House views the meeting as a way of displaying Western unity on the eve of Moscow’s 9 May victory day parade.

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There has been speculation that the Russian president had hoped to use the symbolically important date to highlight his success in Ukraine, but the fierce resistance put up by Kyiv’s forces has scuppered any such claim.

The UK’s Ministry of Defence said Russia’s ability to fight with modern equipment was being damaged by losses in Ukraine and the impact of sanctions.

The MoD said at least one of Russia’s most advanced T-90M tanks had been destroyed in fighting, while sanctions were restricting access to microelectronic components for sophisticated equipment.