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Newly appointed UK Defence Secretary John Healey, who took up his position following the landslide Labour victory in the national election on 4 July 2024, lost no time in visiting Odesa on 7 July, pledging to step up the UK’s support for Ukraine.

Following a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and discussions with his counterpart, Ukrainian Defence Minister Rustem Umerov, Healey announced that the UK would provide a new package of support to the country, including more artillery pieces, a quarter of a million rounds of ammunition and nearly 100 precision Brimstone missiles.

The defence secretary also pledged to fast-track military support committed for Ukraine in April 2024 to arrive within the next 100 days.

During the visit, which coincided with Ukrainian celebrations of their annual navy day, the defence secretary confirmed that the UK’s steadfast commitment to Ukraine will be reinvigorated by the new government in Westminster.

“There may have been a change in government, but the UK is united for Ukraine,” Healey stated. “As the new defence secretary I will ensure that we reinvigorate Britain’s support by stepping up supplies of vital military aid. Our commitment to stand with the Ukrainian people is absolute, as is our resolve to confront Russian aggression and pursue Putin for his war crimes.

“This government is steadfast in our commitment to continue supplying military assistance and will stand shoulder to shoulder with our Ukrainian friends for as long as it takes,” Healey added.

Upon taking office Healey immediately asked for extra support to be provided to Ukraine that was readily available and meets the country’s battlefield needs.

As well as a quarter of a million rounds of .50 cal ammunition and 90 Brimstone anti-armour missiles, the new package also includes: 50 small military boats to support river and coastal operations; 40 demining vehicles; another 10 AS90 self-propelled guns; 61 bulldozers to help build defensive positions; and support for previously gifted AS90s, including 32 new barrels and critical spares to help Ukraine fire another 60,000 155 mm rounds.

The UK announced in April this year the largest ever military aid package to Ukraine, including 400 vehicles, 1,600 strike and air defence missiles, including additional Storm Shadow air-launched cruise missiles, four million rounds of ammunition and 60 boats, including offshore raiding craft.

Having provided more than GBP 7.6 billion (EUR 8.99 billion) of military support since Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the UK is continuing to work with allies and partners to provide Ukraine with the equipment and weapons it needs to win the war.

“The support provided by the UK so far has proved pivotal in supporting Ukraine’s ability to defend itself since the war started, having been the first country to provide modern, Western battle tanks, as well as long-range precision guided missiles,” the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) stated in a press release, additionally noting that more than 42,000 Ukrainian soldiers have also returned home to fight after completing basic training in the UK since June 2022 under Operation ‘Interflex’.

The UK is also co-leading a maritime coalition alongside Norway in support of Ukraine as well as a drone coalition with Latvia.

“The drone coalition has rapidly deployed thousands of drones to support Ukraine whilst also boosting the UK defence industry, with more than GBP 50 million pledged so far to fund the coalition,” the UK MoD noted.

New UK Defence Secretary John Healey MP (left) shakes hands with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Odesa on 7 July 2024, less than 48 hours after his appointment. Following a meeting with President Zelenskyy and discussions with his counterpart, Ukrainian Defence Minister Rustem Umerov, Healey announced that the UK would provide a new package of support to Ukraine. (Photo: Crown Copyright)