UK stresses Kyiv backing amid Zelensky appeal at Munich conference

Volodymyr Zelensky has warned that a lack of long-range weapons is limiting the country’s fightback against Vladimir Putin’s forces, amid concerns about wavering support among US Republicans for the war effort.

It comes as both Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer travelled to the Munich Security Conference with a message of firm British backing for Kyiv.

The Ukrainian President, who spoke alongside other world leaders at the German gathering, also said he is willing to take US presidential frontrunner Donald Trump to the Ukrainian frontline.

Sir Keir Starmer
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer gave his support to Ukraine (Joe Giddens/PA)

Mr Zelensky used the conference to urge the West to continue to back the Ukrainian armed forces, as the two-year anniversary of the invasion approaches.

Republicans aligned to former American president Donald Trump have been vocal in expressing scepticism about funding for the fight in eastern Europe.

Donald Trump visit to Ireland
Hardline Republicans aligned with Donald Trump are against the funding (Brian Lawless/PA)

On Saturday, he said backing from the UK, the European Union and Washington would make a “real difference” to the fight against Russia.

A bill has passed through the US senate but faces a deeply uncertain future in the House of Representatives, where hardline Republicans aligned with Mr Trump oppose the legislation.

Mr Zelensky said that he was willing to show Mr Trump the “real” war.

“If Mr Trump will come, I am ready to go with him to the frontline.

“What does it mean, the real war – not Instagram, the real war?” the Ukrainian President said.

Mr Zelensky’s appearance came as Ukraine’s military chief said early on Saturday that he is withdrawing troops from Avdiivka in eastern Ukraine, where they have battled a Russian assault for four months.

Lord Cameron, who has been explicit in his call for Republicans to back Ukraine, did not comment directly on the withdrawal, but pointed to successes for Kyiv elsewhere.

“Things that happen in Ukraine, that is for the Ukraine armed forces to decide,” the Foreign Secretary said.

“But I would point you towards the Black Sea, where yet again another Russian ship has been sunk by incredibly brave Ukrainian action.”

Lord Cameron visits Sofia
Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron hailed Ukrainian successes (Stoyan Nenov/PA)

“Most of all is: look at what Ukraine’s allies have.

“If you add up our economies, we outmatch Russia 25-to-one.

“We’ve got ability to give that diplomatic military, economic, moral support, we have just got to make that difference count.

“Are we doing enough at the moment?

“No – I want us to do more.

“I know that Britain is doing what it can, the European Union has voted through its package to give massive support to Ukraine.

“We now need the US congress to do the same.

“If all those three things line up, I think that will make a real difference.”

Senior Tory MPs including Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman Alicia Kearns are among those at the security gathering, which is also being attended by Sir Keir – marking the first time a Labour leader has travelled to the conference since 2010.

Sir Keir told Sky News that all British political parties “stand as one” behind Ukraine, regardless of who wins the next general election.

“I had the opportunity to go to see the President in Kyiv just last year, and to personally assure him that if there’s a change of governments in 2024 in the election that we will have, there’ll be no change of approach from the UK and the support that we provide for Ukraine.

“It’s why we’ve been very consistent in our support so far, and we’ll continue that if we’re privileged enough to form a government, but he is absolutely right to remind us of the ever-present threat of Russia and the aggression that continues in Ukraine.

“We stand with Ukraine. We stand with our allies and international partners here in Munich, and we stand as one in the United Kingdom.”

Meanwhile Defence Secretary Grant Shapps used an interview with the Financial Times to call on Nato members to “step up” on defence spending, suggesting it would make security concerns “much less relevant”.

The move comes after Mr Trump’s widely criticised remarks in which he recalled how as president he told an unidentified Nato member that he would “encourage” Russia to do as it wishes in cases of allies who are “delinquent”.

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