This week the latest group of Ukrainian recruits to complete their training in the UK boarded their transports and headed home, many destined for the front line in the east and south. As always, their route was lined with British soldiers applauding their Ukrainian brothers and sisters – because they know that you are fighting for values that we share.
30,000 Ukrainian troops have now completed their training in Britain – artillery crews, marines, engineers, combat medics and more. That’s in addition to the 22,000 Ukrainian forces we trained before the 2022 invasion. President Zelenskyy and I visited some of those troops back in February, to see them training on British Challenger 2 tanks. My message to Ukraine today is the same as what I told those soldiers: we will be with you until you are victorious.
And it’s not just the British government and our Armed Forces who stand with you, the British people stand with you too. The blue and yellow flag flies not just over my residence at 10 Downing Street, but in villages, towns and cities across the country – raised by communities because of their solidarity with you and the many Ukrainian families who are now part of the fabric of our society, and because of their outrage at Russia's actions. That feeling still burns as strong as ever in the UK – and among our allies. We are willing you on to victory and we'll do everything we can to help to achieve it.
Ukraine bears the terrible cost of Russia’s aggression every day. And yet, you do not tire – so nor will we. Putin is betting that our attention will gradually move elsewhere, but it never will.
Although progress on the battlefield is extremely tough, with your courage, resilience and determination you are achieving incredible things. You have shown that Russia cannot win.
Russia has tried its own offensive in Avdiivka and it has failed, suffering their worst losses of 2023. You have pushed back the Black Sea Fleet and made Crimea a vulnerability for Putin rather than a strength. That is a huge setback for Russia. You’ve opened an export corridor to the Bosporus and Ukrainian ships are now getting through. It says something profound about the Ukrainian character that even as you fight to defend your nation, you’re also struggling to get your grain out to feed the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.
When I meet fellow leaders in the G7, NATO and the Joint Expeditionary Force it’s clear that we are completely united behind you – through this winter, through 2024, and for the long term. We will keep matching your determination with the support we provide.
I’m proud of the UK’s record as the first G7 nation to send tanks to Ukraine, the first to send long-range weapons and the first to step forward to train your pilots. But of course this is a collective effort.
We are working with our allies and partners to deliver the support you need to keep up the pressure on Putin’s forces. We’re increasing our support for your air defence, to help stop Russia’s missiles and drones from striking your cities and vital infrastructure – particularly during the winter. And we’re following through on the pledge we made at the NATO summit in Vilnius in July, to provide long-term bilateral security assurances for Ukraine. Since then 31 nations have signed up, with each one taking a role in helping to build Ukraine’s future defence and deterrence.
The UK is taking a lead in this effort, including by helping build your maritime capability so you can keep making progress in the Black Sea, which is so vital for Ukraine’s security and prosperity. We want to help your economy to thrive now – to rebuild and recover even while the fight to regain your territory goes on. That’s why we hosted the Ukraine Recovery Conference in June this year, raising over $60 billion.
Together with you and our allies, we will support Ukraine to realise its destiny as a secure, thriving European democracy.
This weekend, the British people will stand together in silence to remember the courage and sacrifice of those who have fought and died for us in the World Wars and other conflicts. In an echo of that ceremony, Ukrainian troops training in the UK hold a minute of silence at 9am every day to remember the ongoing sacrifice of their countrymen and women. We remember the fallen out of the deepest respect, but also to renew our determination that the values and freedoms they fought for will prevail.
Ukraine will prevail. And we will stand by your side until that day comes. Slava Ukraini!
Rishi Sunak, British Prime Minister