Boris Johnson is 'more committed than ever to reinforcing Ukraine'

Boris Johnson says he is ‘more committed than ever to reinforcing Ukraine and ensuring Vladimir Putin fails’ as he promises to provide additional aid to Kyiv in phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky

  • The PM offered Mr Zelensky ‘continued humanitarian and economic support’ 
  • He also pledged to send further arms shipments to Ukraine’s armed forces
  • Mr Johnson expressed his commitment to supporting Ukraine in thwarting Putin
  • It comes as bitter fighting continues in the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine
  • Russia is experiencing heavy losses but is pouring more troops towards the frontlines while conducting aerial bombardments of several eastern cities 

Boris Johnson declared his renewed commitment to supporting Ukraine amid its war with Russia and ‘ensuring Putin falls’ following his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky today.

The Prime Minister offered Mr Zelensky the UK’s ‘continued economic and humanitarian support’ and pledged further arms shipments during a call on Saturday afternoon, a Downing Street spokesperson said.

Britain is one of the largest suppliers in Europe of arms to Ukraine, having already sent more than 5,000 anti-tank missiles, 1,360 anti-structure munitions, five air defence systems with more than 100 missiles, and 4.5 tonnes of plastic explosives, according to the Ministry of Defence.

Ukrainian forces have also been using Starstreak high-velocity and low-velocity anti-air missiles supplied by the UK.

Following the call, Mr Johnson tweeted: ‘I spoke to President @ZelenskyyUa earlier to set out how the UK will continue to provide military and humanitarian aid to give Ukrainians the equipment they need to defend themselves.

‘I’m more committed than ever to reinforcing Ukraine and ensuring Putin fails.’

President Zelensky tweeted: ‘I keep in touch with @BorisJohnson. Spoke about the situation on the battlefield and in the blocked Mariupol.

‘Discussed defensive support for Ukraine and the necessary diplomatic efforts to achieve peace.’

It comes as Ukraine’s armed forces and territorial defence units continue to engage in bitter fighting as they attempt to repel Russia’s all-out assault on the eastern Donbas region.

The Prime Minister offered Mr Zelensky the UK’s ‘continued economic and humanitarian support’ and pledged further arms shipments during a call on Saturday afternoon, a Downing Street spokesperson said

Following the call, President Zelensky tweeted: ‘I keep in touch with @BorisJohnson. Spoke about the situation on the battlefield and in the blocked Mariupol. ‘Discussed defensive support for Ukraine and the necessary diplomatic efforts to achieve peace’

Mr Johnson tweeted: ‘I spoke to President @ZelenskyyUa earlier to set out how the UK will continue to provide military and humanitarian aid to give Ukrainians the equipment they need to defend themselves. I’m more committed than ever to reinforcing Ukraine and ensuring Putin fails’

Ukrainian military personnel inspect the site of a missile strike in front of a damaged residential building, amid Russia’s invasion, in Dobropillia, in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, April 30, 2022

Following the call between Mr Johnson and Mr Zelensky, a Downing Street spokesperson said: ‘The Prime Minister spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky today, as part of their regular dialogue.

‘President Zelensky updated on the fierce fighting in Eastern Ukraine and ongoing siege of Mariupol. He set out the equipment needed for the defence of Ukraine.

‘The Prime Minister reiterated that he is more committed than ever to reinforcing Ukraine and ensuring Putin fails, noting how hard the Ukrainians are fighting for their freedom.

‘He confirmed that the UK will continue to provide additional military aid to give the Ukrainians the equipment they needed to defend themselves.

‘The leaders also discussed progress of the UN-led effort to evacuate Mariupol and concern for the injured there. The Prime Minister offered the UK’s continued economic and humanitarian support.

‘The Prime Minister and President Zelensky agreed to remain in close contact on next steps, in coordination with international allies and partners.’

Russia is believed to have sustained heavy casualties in the eastern Donbas region, as Ukraine’s armed forces continue their bitter defence of the Donetsk and Luhansk territories which have been partially occupied by Moscow-backed separatists since 2014.

Russia’s military leaders are pouring troops and equipment into the east of Ukraine in an attempt to force a bloody victory after they abandoned plans to blitz through Ukraine’s north and seize Kyiv earlier in the war.

Britain’s ministry of defence today said Putin’s troops in the east are still struggling to make ground despite the renewed support, citing poor tactics and the deployment of low-skilled troops as reasons for the slow progress.

‘Shortcomings in Russian tactical coordination remain. A lack of unit-level skills and inconsistent air support have left Russia unable to fully leverage its combat mass, despite localised improvements,’ the MoD tweeted.

‘Russia hopes to rectify issues that have previously constrained its invasion by geographically concentrating combat power, shortening supply lines and simplifying command and control,’ it said.

Getting a full picture of the unfolding battle in eastern Ukraine has been difficult because airstrikes and artillery barrages have made it extremely dangerous for reporters to move around. 

Also, both Ukraine and the Moscow-backed rebels have introduced tight restrictions on reporting from the combat zone. 

So far though, Russia’s troops and the separatists appeared to have made only minor gains in the month since Moscow said it would focus its military strength in the east.

Britain’s ministry of defence today said Putin’s troops in the east are still struggling to make ground despite the renewed support, citing poor tactics and the deployment of low-skilled troops as reasons for the slow progress

Numerically, Russia’s military manpower vastly exceeds Ukraine’s. 

In the days before the war began, Western intelligence estimated Russia had positioned near the border as many as 190,000 troops; Ukraine’s standing military totals about 200,000, spread throughout the country.

Yet, in part because of the tenacity of the Ukrainian resistance, the U.S. believes the Russians are ‘at least several days behind where they wanted to be’ as they try to encircle Ukrainian troops in the east, said a senior U.S. defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the American military’s assessment.

With plenty of firepower still in reserve, Russia’s offensive still could intensify and overrun the Ukrainians. Overall the Russian army has an estimated 900,000 active-duty personnel. Russia also has a much larger air force and navy.

But hundreds of millions of dollars in military assistance has flowed into Ukraine since the war began, and Western allies have made it clear they intend to keep providing the Ukrainian armed forces with the resources and equipment necessary to defend their territory against the invaders.

Besides the 23,000 troops lost in battle, Russia has reportedly lost 986 tanks, 2418 armoured vehicles, 189 planes, 155 helicopters and 73 anti-aircraft missile units over the past nine weeks, according to information provided by the Ukrainian Land Forces.

However, Russia has continued its brutal bombardment of the southern port city of Mariupol, where a small battalion of Ukrainian fighters are attempting to evacuate desperate civilians from the Azovstal steel plant.

Russian servicemen guard the territory of the cargo sea port in Mariupol. Russia has continued its brutal bombardment of the southern port city, where a small battalion of Ukrainian fighters are attempting to evacuate desperate civilians from the Azovstal steel plant

Russia’s attacks are now concentrated on the Soviet-era steel plant (pictured) located close to the harbour – the only part of the city not under occupation – where a small contingent of between 1,000-2000 Ukrainian soldiers are staging a desperate holdout alongside roughly 1,000 civilians

Of the 450,000 people who lived in Mariupol prior to Russia’s invasion of February 24, only around 100,000 remain in the bombed out ruins of the city.

But Russia’s attacks are now concentrated on the Soviet-era steel plant located close to the harbour – the only part of the city not under occupation – where a small contingent of between 1,000-2000 Ukrainian soldiers are staging a desperate holdout alongside roughly 1,000 civilians.

Ukrainian soldiers hiding in the network of tunnels and rooms underneath the plant have repeatedly called for international aid and a safe passage for evacuation, saying the plant’s residents are barely surviving on extremely limited food and water and that there are many injured soldiers and civilians suffering without proper medical attention. 

U.N. humanitarian spokesman Saviano Abreu said the world organization was negotiating with authorities in Moscow and Kyiv to organise a ceasefire.

‘There is, right now, ongoing, high-level engagements with all the governments, Russia and Ukraine, to make sure that you can save civilians and support the evacuation of civilians from the plant,’ Abreu said today, but he could not provide details of the ongoing evacuation effort ‘because of the complexity and fluidity of the operation.’

Ukraine has blamed the failure of numerous previous evacuation attempts on continued Russian shelling.

Smoke rises from the grounds of the Azovstal steel plant in the city of Mariupol on April 29, 2022, amid the ongoing Russian military action in Ukraine

People take part in a rally demanding international leaders to organise a humanitarian corridor for the evacuation of Ukrainian military and civilians from Mariupol, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in central Kyiv, Ukraine April 30, 2022

The ferocity of the fighting, and the plight of the civilians hiding in the Azovstal factory, has stunned the world, bringing Pentagon press secretary John Kirby to the verge of tears on Friday.

‘It’s hard to look at what [Putin] is doing in Ukraine, what his forces are doing in Ukraine, and think that any ethical, moral individual could justify that,’ Kirby, a retired rear admiral, told reporters. 

‘It’s difficult to look at some of the images and imagine that any well-thinking, serious, mature leader would do that. So, I can’t talk to his psychology. But I think we can all speak to his depravity.’

A vast underground network of tunnels and bunkers has provided civilians and fighters hiding in the steel plant with relative safety from airstrikes. 

But the situation has grown more dire in recent days after the Russians dropped ‘bunker busters’ and other bombs on the plant, the city’s mayor Vadym Boychenko said Friday.

Women whose husbands are trapped in the plant with the Azov Regiment said they feared soldiers will be tortured and killed if they are left behind and captured.

Meanwhile, Britain’s Foreign Office is investigating reports that a British national has been detained by Russia after a video emerged showing a man in camouflage clothes being questioned.

In the video, reportedly shown on Russian television, the man appears to give his name as Andrew Hill.

He speaks with an English accent, has his arm in a sling, a bandage around his head, and blood can be seen on his hand.

The video, which has not been verified, has been shared online. 

Russia has continued its brutal bombardment of the southern port city of Mariupol (pictured), where a small battalion of Ukrainian fighters are attempting to evacuate desperate civilians from the Azovstal steel plant

Britain’s Foreign Office is investigating reports that a British national has been detained by Russia after a video emerged showing a man in camouflage clothes being questioned. In the video, reportedly shown on Russian television, the man appears to give his name as Andrew Hill

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) is investigating the reports and also supporting family members.

The FCDO condemns the exploitation of prisoners of war for political purposes and calls for anyone detained to be treated humanely in accordance with the requirements of international humanitarian law.

Two other British men, said to be working as humanitarian aid volunteers, are also believed to have been detained in Ukraine by Russian forces.

The Presidium Network, a non-profit group, said said Paul Urey and Dylan Healey were captured early on Monday morning at a checkpoint south of the city of Zaporizhzhia in south-eastern Ukraine.

Mr Urey, who was born in 1977 and is from Manchester, and Mr Healey, born in 2000 and from Cambridgeshire, travelled to Ukraine of their own accord, the organisation said.

They were not working for the Presidium Network, which helps to get aid into Kyiv.

The organisation said the pair were driving to help a woman and two children to evacuate when they went missing.

Presidium Network said it is concerned Russian forces may think the two men are British spies.

The Foreign Office said it was urgently seeking more information following reports of British nationals being detained in Ukraine.

Source: Read Full Article