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Source: The Guardian

May 15, 2023

UK will train Ukraine pilots, Sunak tells Zelenskiy; Russia and Iran appear to be expanding cooperation, US says – as it happened

BY Mabel Banfield-Nwachi, Martin Belam and Jordyn Beazley

It is almost 9pm in Kyiv. Here is a round-up of some of the day’s main stories:

  • Volodymyr Zelenskiy visited Chequers in Buckinghamshire for talks with the UK prime minister, Rishi Sunak on Monday. Sunak said Britain would provide Ukraine with hundreds of air defence missiles and further unmanned aerial systems, including new long-range attack drones with a range of more than 200km, to be delivered over the coming months. Zelenskiy’s visit comes off the back of trips to Berlin and Paris, and with the UK last week having pledged to send longer ranger cruise missiles to support Ukraine’s efforts to oust Russian forces from its territory.

  • The United States is seeing more indications that Russia and Iran are expanding an unprecedented defence partnership that will help Moscow prolong its war in Ukraine as well as pose a threat to Iran’s neighbours. Iran reportedly provided Russia with one-way attack drones, including more than 400 since august, US national security adviser John Kirby said at a news briefing.

  • The World Health Organization’s European office decided to close a specialised WHO office in Moscow and move its functions to Denmark. Calls from members to shut the office came last year over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

  • Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko inadvertently confirmed on Monday that four military aircraft had been shot down over Russia last week near the borders of Ukraine and Belarus, saying the capital city Minsk had responded by putting its armed forces on high alert. Photos also emerged of Lukashenko today visiting an air force installation, who had not been seen since 9 May, which caused speculation about his health.

  • Data published on the Federal Treasury’s online budget portal Russia spent 2tn roubles (£21bn) on defence in January and February alone. This is a 282% jump on the same period a year ago, data on the budget portal showed, illustrating the spiralling costs for Moscow of its conflict in Ukraine.

  • Russia’s defence ministry said it scrambled a fighter jet today to prevent French and German patrol aircraft from entering its airspace over the Baltic Sea after it detected them flying towards Russia. Russia said the flights were being conducted by a German P-3C patrol aircraft and a French Atlantic-2 maritime patrol jet.

  • Russia’s defence ministry has claimed for the first time today that it had downed a long-range Storm Shadow missile supplied to Ukraine by Britain, which announced last week that it was providing them. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said earlier on Monday that Russia viewed Britain’s decision to supply the missiles “extremely negatively”.

  • UN aid chief, Martin Griffiths, said today that efforts will continue to extend a deal allowing the safe Black Sea export of Ukraine grain, a pact Moscow has threatened to quit on 18 May over obstacles to its grain and fertiliser exports, Reuters reports.

  • Ahead of the trip Zelenskiy’s trip to the UK on Monday, he tweeted: “The UK is a leader when it comes to expanding our capabilities on the ground and in the air. This cooperation will continue today. I will meet my friend Rishi. We will conduct substantive negotiations face-to-face and in delegations.”

  • Sunak said in a statement: “This is a crucial moment in Ukraine’s resistance to a terrible war of aggression they did not choose or provoke. They need the sustained support of the international community to defend against the barrage of unrelenting and indiscriminate attacks that have been their daily reality for over a year. We must not let them down.”

  • Zelenskiy issued a new appeal to Nato on Monday to make a “positive political decision” on Kyiv’s membership at its July summit. Zelenskiy made his remarks in a video address to the Copenhagen democracy summit. He said that Finland joining Nato showed the strength of security guarantees, and thanked Denmark and other allies for their resolve in assisting Ukraine against Russia.

  • The defence of Bakhmut continues and recent days have shown that Ukraine can move forward and counter the Russian forces there, the commander of Ukrainian ground forces, Col Gen Oleksandr Syrskyi, said on Monday.

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