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New UK prime minister vows 'steadfast' support for Ukraine

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Britain's new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak

Britain's new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak assures Ukraine of London's growingly firm support for the ex-Soviet republic in the face of an ongoing Russian military operation.

"The Prime Minister said the United Kingdom’s support for Ukraine would be as strong as ever under his premiership, and [Ukraine's] President [Volodymyr] Zelensky could count on his Government to stand in continued solidarity," a Number 10 spokesperson said on Tuesday.

"Both leaders agreed on the need to continue to place pressure" on Russia "through continued economic sanctions ... [Sunak] said he hoped they would see each other in person soon," the spokesperson added.

Sunak took office earlier on Tuesday, becoming the UK's third premier this year following a disastrous 49-day-long tenure by Liz Truss, who has been accused of compounding Britain's already strenuous economic conditions.

Zelensky acknowledged receiving the call from Sunak, expressing confidence that the bilateral ties would grow under the new PM.

"I believe that the partnership between our states, as well as Britain's... leadership in defending democracy and freedom, will continue to strengthen further," the Ukrainian chief executive said in his daily address to the nation. He also invited the British premier to visit Ukraine.

Also on Tuesday, however, Russia said there was no hope for improvement of ties with Britain under Sunak.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow saw "no grounds for hope that there will be any positive changes in the foreseeable future."

Relations between Moscow and London, already strained due to a litany of issues, have deteriorated even further since Russia launched the "special military operation" in Ukraine on February 24.

The Kremlin says it began the operation in order to defend the pro-Russian population in the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk against persecution by Kiev.

Back in 2014, the two republics broke away from Ukraine, refusing to recognize a Western-backed Ukrainian government there that had overthrown a democratically-elected Russia-friendly administration.

The United Kingdom has been a key ally of Ukraine in the eight-month war, committing 2.3 billion pounds ($2.6 billion) in military aid to Kiev this year. It has also recently supplied Ukraine with advanced air defense missiles capable of shooting down cruise projectiles.

Moscow has warned Ukraine's Western allies that pumping Kiev full of advanced weapons would only deteriorate the current situation by delaying the prospect of peace.

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