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British, French defense ministers in Ukraine to discuss further military aid to Kiev

A photograph released by the Ukrainian government shows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) meeting with Grant Shapps, the new defense secretary of Britain, in Kiev, Ukraine, on September 27, 2023.

Defense ministers of the United Kingdom and France have gathered in Kiev to discuss further military aid to Ukraine, which is striving for more weapons to boost its slowed counteroffensive against Russian forces.

UK Defense Secretary Grant Shapps arrived in Kiev on Wednesday and met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, discussing with him ways to further boost Ukraine’s military, including its air defenses.

The Ukrainian leader wrote on X (formerly known as Twitter) early on Thursday that he had met with Shapps.

“I am profoundly grateful to the UK for all the financial, humanitarian, and military support, including crucial long-range capabilities. We discussed further defense cooperation and steps to strengthen Ukraine’s air defense,” Zelensky said.

Shapps, for his part, said that he had been to “Kiev this week to ask Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky what he needs to win.” He is on his first trip to the Ukrainian capital as the British defense minister.

Being one of the biggest military supporters of Ukraine since the war with Russia broke out in February last year, the UK supplied Kiev with next-generation light anti-tank weapons (Nlaws), then Challenger tanks, and Storm Shadow missiles, and is now sending tens of thousands more artillery shells in coming months.

French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu also arrived in Kiev on Thursday alongside several defense industry officials for similar talks. He laid flowers at the Wall of Remembrance of the Fallen for Ukraine at St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery.

“The day began with an emotional moment of honoring the heroes in front of the wall of memory of those who fell for Ukraine,” the French embassy in Kiev said.

France has already provided Ukraine with a number of 155mm TRF1 towed howitzers and two Crotale anti-aircraft systems.

Moreover, Paris reportedly supplied Kiev 18 CAESAR self-propelled howitzer systems, as well as Mistral anti-aircraft missile systems, Milan anti-tank guided missile systems, some 60 armored personnel carriers, and HDP-2A2 anti-tank mines.

The British and French ministers came to Kiev ahead of Ukraine’s first Defense Industries Forum, where Ukrainian officials are set to meet representatives from over 160 defense firms and 26 countries.

The US-led Western allies began flooding Kiev with weapons and ammunition shortly after Russia launched its “special military operation” in the ex-Soviet republic in February 2022.

Moscow has repeatedly warned Western leaders against the continued supply of weapons and munitions to Ukraine, pointing out that such measures will not stop Russian troops from defending its objectives and that arming Kiev would only prolong the war.

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