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British PM Johnson unveils new economic, military aid in Ukraine visit

British PM Johnson unveils new economic, military aid in Ukraine visit
British Prime Minister Johnson (L) held talks on military and economic aid with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Saturday. Photo by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Telegram

April 9 (UPI) -- Continuing the European outreach to Ukraine amid the Russian invasion, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Kyiv Saturday to present a new package of financial and military assistance to the besieged country.

"Today I met my friend [Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky] in Kyiv as a show of our unwavering support for the people of Ukraine," Johnson wrote on Twitter. "We're setting out a new package of financial & military aid which is a testament of our commitment to his country's struggle against Russia's barbaric campaign."

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Britain is "stepping up" its own military and economic support while also convening "a global alliance to bring this tragedy to an end, and ensure Ukraine survives and thrives as a free and sovereign nation," the prime minster said in an issued statement.

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The new aid will include weapons such as 120 armored vehicles and new anti-ship missile systems to support Ukraine "in this crucial phase while Russia's illegal assault continues."

Also in the package is further economic support, guaranteeing an additional $500 million in World Bank lending to Ukraine, boosting Britain's total loan guarantees to up to $1 billion.

Johnson "is one of the most principled opponents of the Russian invasion, a leader in sanctions pressure on Russia and in defense support for Ukraine," Zelensky said in Telegram post. "Welcome to Kyiv, my friend!"

Johnson's visit came one day after the European Union announced it is returning its diplomatic presence to Kyiv after evacuating the Ukrainian capital and has opened a fast-track process for the country to become a member of the bloc.

EU foreign relations chief Josep Borrell said the diplomatic delegation is returning to Kyiv while on a joint visit to Ukraine with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Friday.

"With this visit, the European Union is returning back to Kyiv," Borrell said. "I mean this literally: our Head of our delegation is back here, so that we can work even more directly and more closely with the Ukrainian authorities."

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The EU delegation left the capital in February as Russian attacks against the city and its suburbs intensified and has since operated from Rzeszow, Poland, from where it coordinated European and international assistance to Ukraine.

Some EU diplomatic staff will remain in Poland to continue those cooperation efforts, Borrell said.

The EU officials visited the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, which this month was liberated from Russian occupiers.

City authorities have estimated that 360 civilians, including at least 10 children, have been killed in Bucha, according to Liudmyla Denisova, the Ukrainian Parliament's human rights ombudsman.

Europe's "humanity was shattered" in the city, von der Leyen declared at a joint press conference with Zelensky.

"This war is a challenge for the entire international community," she said. "And this is a decisive moment. Will heinous devastation win or humanity prevail? Will the right of might dominate or is it the rule of law? Will there be constant conflict and struggle or a future of common prosperity?"

She noted the EU has allocated more than $900 million for the Ukrainian armed forces with "more to come," and that member states such as Slovakia are "delivering military equipment on an unprecedented scale."

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The EU is also delivering another $920 million in financial support and is backing the resettlement of external and internal Ukrainian refugees through the "Stand up for Ukraine" pledging event.

Most importantly, von der Leyen presented Zelensky with a questionnaire which is to be submitted as the first step in Ukraine's fast-track application process to join the 27-member bloc.

"This is where your path towards the European Union begins," she said.

Scenes from the rubble: Russian forces attack Ukraine capital, Kyiv

Ukrainian service members stand beside a damaged building in a residential area after shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 18. Photo by Vladyslav Musiienko/UPI | License Photo

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