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Ukraine can retake land recently captured by Russia, Johnson tells Zelensky

Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv in June (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/PA)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv in June (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/PA)

Boris Johnson has told Volodymyr Zelensky he believes Ukraine can retake territory recently captured by Russia in a call about the latest situation in the war-torn nation.

The Prime Minister on Tuesday reiterated the UK’s commitment to helping Kyiv defend itself and rebuild, as the Ukrainian president thanked Mr Johnson for a further £100 million in support.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace meanwhile said the first group of Ukrainian soldiers had recently arrived in the UK as part of a programme to train up to 10,000 new Ukrainian recruits.

In a written statement, Mr Wallace said the weeks-long courses, based on the UK’s basic soldier training, will take place at military training areas across the North East, South West and South East regions.

“This includes weapons training, battlefield first aid, fieldcraft, patrol tactics and training on the Law of Armed Conflict,” he said.

“Our ambition is to increase the scale and frequency of these courses, in line with Ukrainian requirements.”

He added that the programme, announced by the Prime Minister on his recent visit to Kyiv, was “a priority for the Ministry of Defence as part of the UK’s unwavering efforts to bolster the capability of the Ukrainian armed forces”.

In their call, Mr Johnson and Mr Zelensky discussed how to quickly get grain out of Ukraine, with Mr Johnson saying the UK “stood ready to help in any way possible”, according to a Downing Street spokeswoman.

Mr Johnson suggested on Monday the Danube and other rivers could be used to free Ukraine’s trapped grain, amid fears Russia’s Black Sea blockade could lead to starvation around the world.

The spokeswoman said the Prime Minister also updated Mr Zelensky “on the latest UK military equipment, including 10 self-propelled artillery systems and loitering munitions, which would be arriving in the coming days and weeks”.

The Prime Minister, who is under political pressure at home over the resignation of former deputy chief whip Chris Pincher, tweeted: “Updated President (Zelensky) on progress made at @G7 and @NATO last week.

“I believe the Ukrainian military can retake territory recently captured by Putin’s forces. The UK remains committed to helping Ukraine defend itself & rebuild.”

Mr Zelensky tweeted: “Thanked (Mr Johnson) for the unwavering support of – the recent decision to provide £1 billion in security aid and today’s – £100 million.

“Talked about food security for the world and security guarantees for Ukraine.”

Mr Johnson also told Mr Zelensky he looked forward to the UK hosting the recovery and reconstruction conference next year, the spokeswoman said.

On Monday, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told this year’s conference in Switzerland that it was the free world’s duty to “do whatever it takes to support” Ukraine in rebuilding its economy as quickly as possible.

It comes as Vladimir Putin’s forces make creeping advances in Ukraine’s east.

The Russian president has focused his assault on the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk after withdrawing from the offensive in the capital Kyiv as his troops faced fierce resistance.

Moscow claims that Russian forces have taken control of Lysychansk, the last major Ukrainian-held city in Luhansk.