KYIV – Britain’s defence minister Ben Wallace met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on a visit to Kyiv on Tuesday, a show of support at a time when Ukraine and NATO countries have expressed concern about Russian troop movements near Ukraine’s borders.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government this week had voiced Britain’s “unwavering” support for Ukraine and said it would back Kyiv in the face of Russian hostility while opposing the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
In a statement after their meeting, Zelenskiy welcomed a framework agreement to use British financing to enhance Ukraine’s naval capabilities, allowing Ukraine to buy missiles, build missile ships and a navy base on the Sea of Azov.
“The United Kingdom has become our key partner in building the Ukrainian fleet,” Zelenskiy said, according to a statement on the presidential website.
Ukraine and NATO countries have expressed concern about Russian troop movements near Ukraine’s borders. Moscow in turn accused Ukraine, the United States and allies of destabilising behaviour, including in the Black Sea.
Britain’s most senior military officer, General Nick Carter, said there was a greater risk of an accidental war breaking out between the West and Russia than at any time since the Cold War.
Relations between Ukraine and Russia collapsed after Russia’s annexation of the Crimea peninsula in 2014 and the outbreak of conflict in eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed forces in the same year.
The West and Russia have also clashed over a migrant crisis unfolding on the European Union’s eastern borders with Belarus, a close Moscow ally.