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Winter Approaches: Grant Shapps Takes Flight to Kyiv to Bolster War Effort

Britain’s Defence Secretary Grant Shapps is back in Kyiv for talks with Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky and his new defence minister Rustem Umerov.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps has travelled to Ukraine as the West seeks to bolster Kyiv after its offensive against the Russian occupiers in the east appears to have stalled.

Mr. Shapps—who replaced Ben Wallace last month and the chief of the defence staff, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin—met President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his defence minister Rustem Umarov.

Mr. Umarov—who met Mr. Shapps last week at a meeting of the Ukraine Defence Contact Group in Germany—replaced Oleksii Reznikov, who was sacked as part of a drive against corruption in defence procurement by Mr. Zelensky.

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Mr. Shapps said, “It was an honour to meet President Zelenskyy in Kyiv to assure him that the UK will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine, as we have since Putin illegally invaded Crimea nearly ten years ago.”

Mr. Shapps—who was in Kyiv in his role as energy security secretary last month—said: “We have trained tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers, delivered hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition, and provided millions of pounds of economic and humanitarian aid to help Ukraine’s citizens reclaim and rebuild what has been taken from them by Putin’s barbaric invasion.”

‘Freezing Winter Weather Approaches’

“Having heard the experiences of so many Ukrainians affected by this war, including a family I hosted in my home for a year, I am committed to maintaining the UK’s military support, particularly as the freezing winter weather approaches,” he added.

Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, but president Putin’s plan to conquer Kyiv and oust Mr. Zelensky’s government within weeks foundered after the Russian forces came up against unexpectedly fierce resistance from the Ukrainians.

Britain's Defence Secretary Grant Shapps (third from the right) meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (fourth from left) in Kyiv, Ukraine on Sep. 28, 2023. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/PA)
Britain’s Defence Secretary Grant Shapps (third from the right) meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (fourth from left) in Kyiv, Ukraine on Sep. 28, 2023. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/PA)

The Russian army later pulled out of northern Ukraine and focused its attention on the south east, where there is a sizeable ethnic Russian minority which has long been opposed to Ukrainian nationalism.

Despite taking most of the city of Bakhmut in March 2023 the Russians failed to break through Ukrainian lines and Ukraine launched its own offensive in June.

But the Ukrainians have met stiff resistance from Russian forces and the conflict appears to have reached another stalemate, with both sides resorting to drone attacks on military and civilian targets.

Ukraine’s NATO allies have offered more military support, although Poland recently said it would stop sending weapons and equipment after a row over grain imports.

But Adm. Radakin said Britain remains stalwart in its support of the government in Kyiv.

He said, “We discussed new commitments of military aid that were made in Ramstein last week, which will help build Ukraine’s strength and resilience through the winter and beyond.”

‘Putin has Lost Control of the war he Started’

“The recent strikes on the Black Sea Fleet are another example of how Ukraine retains the initiative. Putin has lost control of the war he started, and Russia is diminished as a consequence. This visit, together with my visits over the summer, have reinforced my conviction that Ukraine will prevail. The UK will remain with them every step of the way,” he added.

Last week Mr. Shapps promised to deliver tens of thousands more artillery shells in the coming months.

Britain has provided modern main battle tanks and long-range precision strike cruise missiles to Kyiv, as well as 300,000 rounds of artillery ammunition, hundreds of vehicles and weapon systems, and thousands of items of personal protective equipment.

A UK-led programme has trained more than 26,500 Ukrainian recruits and is on track to have trained more than 30,000 soldiers by the end of 2023.

Britain hosted the Ukraine Recovery Conference in partnership with Ukraine this summer, raising $60 billion towards the country’s reconstruction.

The prime minister, Rishi Sunak, pledged further support for Ukraine during the NATO leaders’ summit in Vilnius in July.

Britain delivered £2.3 billion in military aid to Ukraine last year and the prime minister has pledged to do the same in 2023.

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