US missiles are ‘running low’ after sending to aid Ukraine
The news was revealed as it emerged that all remaining women, children and pensioners had last night been evacuated from the steelworks in Mariupol where they had been trapped with Ukrainian fighters for several weeks with little food or water. The £100million-a-month defence boost, confirmed by Chancellor Rishi Sunak last night, will bring the UK’s financial contribution for the war effort in Ukraine to £2.8billion, and represents the highest rate of military spending on any conflict since the height of the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It will be drawn from Britain’s emergency reserve fund and added to the £1.5billion already committed to Ukraine, which includes £400million in humanitarian aid and grants and unlocking more than £700million in additional World Bank lending through loan guarantees.
The announcement comes ahead of today’s virtual G7 meeting with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to mark VE Day, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson will discuss how best to continue supporting Ukraine both militarily and politically.
“The UK was the first country to recognise the scale of the threat and send arms to help the Ukrainians defend themselves. We will stand by that endeavour, working with our allies to ensure Ukraine can continue to push back the Russian invasion and survive as a free and democratic country,“ said the PM last night.
“In the process, we are bolstering our own security and economy, turbocharging the development and production of cutting-edge defence equipment here in the UK.”
Part of the new money will include £300million earmarked for electronic warfare equipment, a counter battery radar system, GPS jamming equipment and thousands of night vision devices, most of which will be made in the UK.
Britain is already one of the largest European arms suppliers to Ukraine, having provided a robust arsenal of lethal aid for the war effort.
This includes more than 5,000 NLAW anti-tank missiles, Starstreak air defence systems with more than 100 high and low velocity missiles, 1,360 anti-structure munitions, 4.5 tonnes of plastic explosives and 120 armoured vehicles.
Non-lethal aid ranges from 90,000 ration packs, over 10 pallets of medical equipment, more than 3,000 pieces of body armour, nearly 77,000 helmets, 3,000 pairs of boots.
Britain will spend a further £1.3billion to help Ukraine’s armed forces (Image: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty)
Another portion of the money will be spent on replenishing some of the now-depleted stocks of missiles needed for the UK’s own defence, sources confirmed last night, while the rest will be used to acquire lethal kit desperately needed by Ukraine which Britain does not currently possess.
In Ukraine, Russian efforts to occupy vast tracts of Donbas and the south-east continued, with three shelling attacks reported on Kharkiv and in the village of Skovorodinyvka, which caused a fire that nearly destroyed the Hryhoriy Skovoroda Literary Memorial Museum.
The collection of the 18th-century philosopher’s books and personal effects had already been moved to a safer location, however.
“The occupiers can destroy the museum where Hryhoriy Skovoroda worked for the last years of his life and where he was buried. But they will not destroy our memory and our values,” said regional governor Oleh Sinegubov.
But it was the strategic port city of Mariupol where most attention was focused.
Despite claims by Vladimir Putin that the city, crucial to Russian plans of establishing a land bridge to Crimea, had been conquered in April, hundreds of resistance fighters continue to hold out at the Soviet-era Azovstal steelworks.
More than 200 civilians and fighters have been living in the labyrinthine complex while the city was pounded almost to oblivion by heavy Russian artillery fire and assaulted by ground troops.
Last night the last remaining women, children and pensioners were finally allowed to be safely evacuated.
But the remaining defenders, Members of Ukraine’s volunteer Asov battalion, braced themselves for a further onslaught, amid expectation that Putin will want to point to the city’s complete “liberation” as his greatest success in tomorrow’s May 9 Victory celebrations in Moscow.
The annual celebrations to commemorate the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two were revived by Putin in 2008 and have become a platform to display Russia’s military strength to the world.
Russia v Ukraine (Image: EXPRESS.CO.UK)
The 69-year-old former KGB colonel will make a speech from the Lenin Mausoleum, where he is expected to remain defiant despite the absence of any foreign dignitaries, before a Red Square parade of some 13,000 troops – a small decrease from last year – troops, tanks, rockets and intercontinental ballistic missiles.
A fly-past over St Basil’s Cathedral will see 77 supersonic fighters and Tu-160 strategic bombers form the controversial Z-formation.
For the first time since 2010, they will be joined by the Il-80 “doomsday” command plane, which would carry Russia’s top brass in the event of a nuclear war.
“He will declare that this is a moment of victory because he has to,” said Prof Mark Galeotti of the Council on Geostrategy last night.
“He will say that this so-called special military operation was never about invasion, but to denazify Ukraine and demilitarise it and point to destroyed Ukrainian tanks and runways.
“He will tell Russian people that his forces are in the final stages of protecting innocent Russians in south-east from genocide, and no one will point out that the Emperor has no clothes.”
Speculation was rife that the event would be used to parade captured Ukrainian prisoners of war and announce a mass mobilisation of troops.
Yesterday a social media channel run by the semi-private Russian mercenary Wagner Group warned that “there will be a mobilisation or we will lose the war”, adding that a further 600-800,000 people to defeat Ukraine.
But Prof Galeotti said this was unlikely to be announced tomorrow.
“There’s clearly a constituency who want to see a mass mobilisation which could bring in a million more men under arms,” he said.
“This is a peace-time army thrust into a land war and they just don’t have the manpower against a fully mobilised Ukraine.
“But to announce that this has become a war or state of emergency would be essentially to admit defeat on Victory day.
“And May 9 is not a day where new policies are traditionally announced.”
He said mass mobilisation would carry many risks for Putin, including further weakening Russia’s fragile economy, losing control of the narrative as soldiers returned and potentially turning Russians against the war.
“There’s no free media to join the dots but it’s already becoming apparent in more impoverished regions where a disproportionate number of people join the military that things aren’t going well,” he said.
“Imagine the political consequences of thousands of women thinking that, at any moment, a husband or son could get dragged off to the meat grinder in Ukraine.