Russia-Ukraine war live: Ukraine and UK sign security deal in Kyiv as Zelenskiy’s top adviser says it ‘busts myth’ of Western fatigue | Ukraine

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Ukraine and Britain sign security agreement in Kyiv

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and British prime minister, Rishi Sunak, on Friday signed a security accord between the two countries in Kyiv.

Zelenskiy described it as an “unprecedented security agreement”. Local media cited him as saying the agreement would remain in effect until Ukraine joined Nato.

Key events

Rishi Sunak said if the UK wavered in its support of Ukraine it would embolden Vladimir Putin and “his allies in North Korea, Iran and elsewhere”.

Giving a press conference alongside Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv, the prime minister said “our opponents around the world believe that we have neither the patience nor the resources for long wars”.

He said:

Ukraine is not alone, and Ukraine will never be alone. Putin might think that he can outlast us but he is wrong. We stand with you today, tomorrow and for as long as it takes.

Because this war is about Ukraine’s right to defend itself and to determine your own future and the Ukrainian people’s historic choice to be an independent democracy at the heart of Europe.

Your quest for freedom has inspired and moved the British people and for the free nations of the world, aid to Ukraine is also an investment in our own collective security.

Because if Putin wins in Ukraine, he will not stop there, and our opponents around the world believe that we have neither the patience nor resources for long wars. So waver now and we emboldened not just Putin, but his allies in North Korea, Iran and elsewhere.

That’s why the United Kingdom and the free world will continue to stand with Ukraine, as we have since the very beginning of this war.

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said on Friday he was more positive now that Ukraine would secure financial aid from the United States than he was last month.

“I am viewing this with more positivity than in December, I think we will [get it],” he told a press conference in Kyiv.

Luke Harding

Luke Harding

Rishi Sunak met Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy today in Kyiv, signing a historic agreement on UK-Ukraine security cooperation.

Zelenskiy greeted Sunak on the steps of his official neo-classical residence, the Mariinskyi palace, built in the 18th century.

“How are you? Very good to see you. Happy new year,” the prime minister said, hugging Zelenskiy and smiling.

Inside, Sunak shook hands with Andriy Yermak, Zelenskiy’s chief of staff, and met with other top government officials, including the foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba.

Britain’s new ambassador to Kyiv, Martin Harris, sat next to Sunak during talks.

Rishi Sunak meets Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv – video

Ukraine and Britain sign security agreement in Kyiv

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and British prime minister, Rishi Sunak, on Friday signed a security accord between the two countries in Kyiv.

Zelenskiy described it as an “unprecedented security agreement”. Local media cited him as saying the agreement would remain in effect until Ukraine joined Nato.

The UK will provide Ukraine with “constant and comprehensive support” for the next decade, according to Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s top adviser.

Andriy Yermak, head of the office of the resident of Ukraine, said the latest announcement of support had “busted the myth” of western fatigue in relation to the conflict.

In a statement, he said:

The document marks the beginning of establishing a system of agreements aimed at creating permanent conditions for the full realisation of Ukraine’s right to self-defence, the restoration of its territorial integrity within internationally recognised borders, and the sustained ability to deter aggression.

Simultaneously, the United Kingdom will provide Ukraine with the assistance it needs for Nato accession. Ultimately, this will strengthen the security of Europe and the Euro-Atlantic community.

He added:

Today, we have busted the myth of Putin’s propaganda about the west’s fatigue from Ukraine. The UK-Ukraine agreement is a vivid testimony to this. I am thankful to president Zelenskiy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as the UK counterparts, for making this happen.

By the way, countering Russian disinformation is one of the agreement’s provisions, alongside strengthening cooperation in military and military-technical fields. This is not accidental, as the dissemination of false narratives is as much a weapon of war as missiles.

An Asiatic black bear, which was found in an abandoned zoo in eastern Ukraine five months after Russia’s invasion in 2022, arrived at his new permanent home in Scotland on Friday.

Yampil, named after the village in the Donetsk region where he was found, was one of only a few out of 200 animals at the zoo to survive, Reuters reports. After being rescued, he was cared for by a Belgian charity before his more than 12-hour journey to Five Sisters Zoo, around 20 miles (32 km) west of Edinburgh.

“When the volunteers found Yampil, a shell had not long exploded near his cage, and he was concussed. He was in terrible condition; five more days and they wouldn’t have been able to save him,” Brian Curran, owner of Five Sisters Zoo, said.

Yampil will be housed in a temporary enclosure while the zoo, which has previously re-homed bears from travelling circuses, fundraises for his new permanent enclosure.

Yampil the bear. Photograph: Five Sisters Zoo

UK prime minister hopes to send ‘strong signal of support’ for Ukraine with visit

Rishi Sunak said he wanted to send a “strong signal” of the UK’s support for Ukraine with his visit.

“We are one of Ukraine’s most significant supporters, particularly when it comes to providing military aid.

“I’m pleased to be here today to announce an increase in the aid that we’re providing. The aid that we’ve got in place already runs through to the early part of this year. So we’re acting in advance of that expiring with a new commitment of £2.5bn – more than we’ve provided in previous years.

“That represents the seriousness of the situation here and our determination to stand with Ukraine. And that’s why I’m here on my first foreign visit of this year, the first foreign leader to visit Ukraine this year.”

He said he warned to “to send a strong signal of support to the Ukrainian people, but also a strong signal of support that Vladimir Putin needs to recognise we’re not going anywhere.

“I’m here with one clear message. The United Kingdom stands with Ukraine,” the prime minister added.

Russian ex-president Dmitry Medvedev said in a post on Telegram on Friday that deployment of any British military contingent in Ukraine would be a declaration of war against Russia.

Responding to British prime minister, Rishi Sunak’s, visit to Kyiv, Medvedev asked how the western public would react if Sunak’s delegation came under fire from cluster munitions, as he said had happened to the southern Russian city of Belgorod.

Belgorod, which is located close to the Ukrainian border, has been hit by rockets and drones in recent months, with 25 people killed in an attack on 30 December.

Rishi Sunak and Volodymyr Zelenskiy are set to hold a press conference in Ukraine this afternoon, after the UK government announced it was providing a new £2.5bn in military aid package for the coming year.

A spokesperson for the prime minister said that Sunak wanted to make a visit to Kyiv his first foreign trip of the year to show the UK’s “unwavering support for Ukraine’s defences”.

A senior Ukrainian presidential aide said on Friday he was confident that an amended bill seeking to tighten Ukraine’s mobilisation laws would be passed in the coming days or weeks, despite hitting setbacks this week.

Thousands of Ukrainians rushed to enlist immediately after Russia invaded in February 2022, but nearly two years into the war, some men are trying to avoid the fight, Reuters reported.

The bill, amended after lawmakers and analysts said some of its provisions violated the constitution and carried corruption risks, proposes making some categories of previously exempt men eligible for mobilisation. It also aims to introduce new ways to crack down on draft-dodgers.

It was expected to face its first vote in parliament this week but failed to clear the relevant committees.

But presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told Ukrainian national television he was still confident the bill would pass.

“I think that in several days, maximum weeks, the law will be voted through in the first and second reading,” he said.

Podolyak accused some lawmakers of “playing politics” at a time of war and said they did not want to take unpopular decisions about mobilisation.

“Lawmakers want to get a law which people will like, but this is impossible.”

British PM Rishi Sunak arrives in Kyiv

The British prime minister, Rishi Sunak, has arrived in Kyiv, according to a photo released by Ukraine’s public broadcaster Suspilne.

Sunak was pictured stepping off a train carriage.

Rishi Sunak arriving in Kyiv on 12 January to meet Volodymyr Zelenskiy to announce a major new package of military aid to Ukraine. Photograph: Reuters

Poland has been cooperating with allies in a probe into the sabotage of the Nord Stream natural gas pipelines, the minister in charge of Polish intelligence services said, denying a newspaper report that it was hindering investigations.

In an interview with Reuters, Tomasz Siemoniak said the country’s prosecutors have been supplying information to European investigators and could allocate more resources to the probe if requested.

“There were meetings of German and Polish prosecutors on this case, and in no area was there any signal of any dissatisfaction of others who dealt with these cases,” Siemoniak said.

“From what I was able to determine, there was no situation in which there was a lack of cooperation or any intentional mistake made by anyone.”

The Nord Stream pipelines, connecting Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea, were blown up in September 2022.

A Russian naval base in Abkhazia, a breakaway territory internationally recognised as part of Georgia, may become operational in 2024, the Russian state news agency RIA quoted Abkhazia’s security council as saying on Friday.

Russian and Abkhazian authorities agreed in October that Russia could open a permanent naval base in the town of Ochamchire, Reuters reported.

RIA quoted the secretary of Abkhazia’s security council, Sergei Shamba, as saying that construction of the base had not yet begun, but that “its operation may begin this year”.

A base in Ochamchire, a town of 5,000 people near Abkhazia’s closed frontier with Georgia, would provide a new, more secure harbour for Russia’s Black Sea Fleet after its bases in Crimea came under repeated, damaging attack by Ukraine since Russia’s invasion of that country.

Abkhazia enjoyed extensive Russian support in a series of wars it fought to secede from Georgia in the 1990s and again in 2008, and Russian forces have long been stationed in the Caucasus territory.

Georgia, which regards Abkhazia as its territory, has condemned the Russian plans as a violation of its sovereignty.

Ukrainian rescue personnel work at the site of a Russian missile attack on a hotel. Russian forces have hit a hotel in central Kharkiv with two missiles, injuring at least 11 people. Photograph: Yevhen Titov/Zuma Press Wire Service/Rex/Shutterstock

Russian tourists reportedly going on a skiing trip to North Korea will be the first international travellers to visit the country since its borders closed in 2020 amid the global pandemic lockdown.

The report, published on Wednesday by the Russian state-run Tass news agency, underscores deepening co-operation between Moscow and Pyongyang.

It also follows the meeting last September between the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, and the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, at a cosmodrome in Russia’s Far East, AP reported.

Tass did not specify a timeframe but the report surprised some Asia observers, who had expected the first post-pandemic tourists to North Korea to come from China, the North’s biggest diplomatic ally and economic pipeline.

According to Tass, an unspecified number of tourists from Russia’s far eastern region of Primorye will first fly to the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, where they will visit monuments such as the Tower of Juche Idea, named after the North’s guiding philosophy of juche – or self-reliance.

The tourists will then travel to the North’s Masik Pass on the east coast, where the country’s most modern ski resort is located, Tass said.

It said the trip was arranged under an agreement reached between Oleg Kozhemyako, the governor of the Primorye region, and North Korean authorities.

Jamie Grierson

Jamie Grierson

Rishi Sunak’s visit comes at a tense moment after after UK and US launched air and missile strikes in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, aimed at halting attacks on ships in the Red Sea.

Zelenskiy has pressed allies in the west to provide Ukraine with more support against Russian forces, amid fears that interest in the war is flagging as the war drags on.

The crisis in the Middle East as Israel continues to bombard Gaza has also turned global attention away from Russian president Vladimir Putin’s invasion of the country. The UK and US, with support from allies Australia, Bahrain, Canada, and the Netherlands, hit at least 60 targets in 16 locations around Yemen overnight on Thursday.

Announcing his visit to Kyiv, Sunak said: “For two years, Ukraine has fought with great courage to repel a brutal Russian invasion. They are still fighting, unfaltering in their determination to defend their country and defend the principles of freedom and democracy.

“I am here today with one message: the UK will also not falter. We will stand with Ukraine, in their darkest hours and in the better times to come.”

Sunak made his first visit to Ukraine in November 2022, weeks after entering No 10.

Opening summary

Hello, you are joining us for the Guardian’s live coverage of the Russian war against Ukraine.

We start with news that the UK prime minister, Rishi Sunak, is visiting Ukraine today to meet his counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, as the UK announced it would provide further military aid to the country over the coming year.

The UK has been one of Kyiv’s staunchest supporters since Russia’s invasion and Sunak said Britain would boost its support in the next financial year to £2.5bn, an increase of £200m on the previous two years.

The extra funding would help Ukraine purchase new military drones, including surveillance, long-range strike and sea drones with most of them expected to be manufactured in Britain.

Here are the other main developments today:

  • The US has imposed sanctions on three Russian entities and one individual involved in the transfer and testing of North Korea’s ballistic missiles for Russia’s use against Ukraine. North Korea’s “transfer of ballistic missiles to Russia supports Russia’s war of aggression, increases the suffering of the Ukrainian people, and undermines the global nonproliferation regime”, said Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state.

  • Boris Nadezhdin, a Russian presidential hopeful opposing the war against Ukraine, met on Thursday with a group of soldiers’ wives who are demanding that their husbands be discharged from the frontline. The longtime Kremlin critic is collecting signatures to qualify to challenge President Vladimir Putin in the 15-17 March vote.

  • Nadezhdin, 60, told the soldiers’ wives that the war was “a big mistake by Putin, of course, and the consequences will be very grave … we want [the soldiers] simply to come back”. Putin’s supporters and opponents alike see his re-election as beyond doubt, given his total grip on power and the fact that his best-known opponent, Alexei Navalny, is serving jail terms totalling more than 30 years in an Arctic penal colony.

  • The EU industrial chief, Thierry Breton, is targeting €3bn in a scheme to ramp up production of defence equipment. “We just have to make sure we are prepared for all eventualities. Russia is one of our biggest concerns,” he said arguing Europe’s ammunition supplies has to be “on a par” with Russia. “We will propose for the next phase, doing what we did just for ammunition, but for all kinds of equipment that we need to produce, to enhance production in Europe,” Breton said. “We will make this public at the end of February,” he said.

  • The European Commission has already allocated €1.5bn but wants to double the amount, said Breton, who earlier this week broached the idea of a €100bn European defence fund. He said this would be a matter for the next commission, due to be appointed at the end of this year.

  • As Volodymr Zelenskiy wrapped up his tour of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, the Ukrainian president said his country was “grateful” for already-delivered Patriot air defence systems, without which it would be “impossible to survive” some attacks, but asked for more deliveries. “How can you live and sleep peacefully, if you have dozens of such systems?” he asked during a press conference in Latvia’s capital, Riga.

  • Latvia’s president, Edgars Rinkevics, announced a new aid package, saying Riga will deliver “artillery shells, anti-aircraft weapons, grenades, drones” for Ukraine this year.

  • Switzerland and Ukraine will host peace formula talks at Davos on Sunday. It is the latest in a series of meetings to rally support for Ukraine’s peace plan and will be the fourth of its kind and the biggest yet.

  • Ukraine’s parliament have refused to debate a bill aimed at drafting more soldiers. Speaking after a closed door meeting with Ukraine’s military leaders, David Arakhamia, ruling party leader said “some provisions directly violate human rights”.

  • Top defence officials from Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania signed a memorandum of understanding in Istanbul establishing the Mine Countermeasures Naval Group in the Black Sea (MCM Black Sea), which will oversee demining operations in the Black Sea to ensure safe waters after Russia’s war.

  • Russia’s Belgorod region bordering is going through “hard times” due to recent shelling by Ukraine, said its governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov.

  • The Kremlin has accused the US of trying to pressure European countries into backing the seizure of frozen Russian assets overseas to help finance the rebuilding of Ukraine – an idea that has gained momentum.

  • Ukraine has been building barricades and digging trenches as its focus shifts towards defence. On Wednesday, Reuters reporters visited trenches being dug with an excavator and shovels at an undisclosed location in the Chernihiv region near the Russian border.

  • Ukraine’s national union of journalists said Russian missile strikes on a hotel in Kharkiv amounted to “the intimidation of media workers in order to limit the coverage of the war”. Thirteen people were injured, including foreign journalists.

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