LONDON, Jan 14 (Reuters) – Britain will send 14 of its main battle tanks to Ukraine with additional artillery support, despite criticism from the Russian embassy in London, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s office said late on Saturday.
A platoon of 14 Challenger 2 tanks will move into the country in the coming weeks, followed by around 30 AS90 self-propelled guns manned by five gunners, the British Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.
The UK will also begin training Ukrainian forces to use tanks and guns in the coming days.
“As the people of Ukraine approach a second year of living under relentless Russian bombardment, the Prime Minister remains committed to ensuring that Ukraine wins this war,” the Prime Minister’s spokesman said in a statement.
“Together with his closest military advisers, he analyzed the military picture, looked at the strategic impact of UK support and identified a window where he thought the UK and its allies could have maximum impact.”
The announcement followed a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky earlier on Saturday, which “outlined the UK’s ambition to intensify our support for Ukraine by providing Challenger 2 tanks and additional artillery systems.”
Sunak’s office said earlier this week that Britain would coordinate its support with allies after Germany, France and the United States said last week they would provide Ukraine with armored vehicles.
The office also said the defense minister would update the British parliament on Monday with security support details.
The Russian embassy in London said the decision to send tanks would drag out the conflict and lead to more casualties, including civilians, and evidence of “London’s overt involvement in the conflict”.
“As for the Challenger 2 tanks, they are unlikely to help Ukraine’s armed forces turn the tide on the battlefield, but they will become a legitimate large target for Russian artillery,” the embassy said, according to comments cited by TASS. news agency.
The Challenger 2 is a battle tank designed to attack other tanks and has been in service with the British Army since 1994. It has been used in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Iraq, the military said.
“Prime Minister and President Zelenskiy welcomed other international commitments in this vein, including Poland’s proposal to provide the company with Leopard tanks,” a spokesman for Sunak said.
In his late-night video speech released before the detailed British announcement, Zelenskiy said the expected aid was “vital” to Ukraine’s security.
“It’s really needed,” Zelensky said. “And I hope that similar decisions will still be made by other partners – those who understand why such evil cannot be given a chance.”
Reporting by Michael Holden and Lydia Kelly; Editing: Mark Heinrich, Angus MacSwan, Tomasz Janowski and Deepa Babington
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