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UK’s Shapps meets Zelensky on first visit to wartime Kyiv

The UK’s defence minister Grant Shapps and President Volodymyr Zelensky reportedly discussed beefing up Ukraine’s air defences during the visit. (AP pic)

KYIV: The UK’s defence minister Grant Shapps discussed how to bolster Ukraine’s air defences during talks in Kyiv with President Volodymyr Zelensky, the president’s office said today.

The visit to the Ukrainian capital was Shapps’ first to wartime Kyiv since he became defence secretary last month. The UK has been a staunch ally of Ukraine throughout the full-scale invasion launched by Russia in February 2022.

“On behalf of the whole nation, I thank you for everything you are doing for us. We are grateful for your help – military, financial, humanitarian. We greatly appreciate that we can rely on you,” a statement released by Zelensky’s office quoted the president as saying.

Zelensky raised defence sector cooperation between Kyiv and London, which he said had allowed Ukraine to significantly expand its capabilities on the battlefield with long-range weapons.

The UK this year supplied Storm Shadow cruise missiles that have allowed Ukraine to conduct long-range strikes on targets in Russian-occupied territory.

The statement said Shapps and Zelensky discussed beefing up air defences in Ukraine amid fears that Russia will use long-range missiles and drones to target critical energy infrastructure in the depths of winter.

The visit was not pre-announced, a normal wartime security precaution, and it was unclear exactly when Shapps met Zelensky. Shapps has visited Ukraine before during the war, but in his previous capacity as energy minister.

Shapps replaced Ben Wallace as defence minister last month and vowed to keep up the UK’s support for Ukraine.