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Ukraine updates: UK's Rishi Sunak makes first visit to Kyiv

November 19, 2022

The UK's newest prime minister traveled to the Ukrainian capital for talks with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Meanwhile, Kyiv has rejected the idea of a potential "short truce" with Russia. DW has the latest.

 In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, right, shakes hands with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine
British Prime Minister Richi Sunak made a previously unannounced visit to Kyiv, holding talks with President Volodymyr ZelenskyyImage: Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/AP Photo/picture alliance

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy met with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for the first time in the capital, Kyiv, on Saturday.

The surprise visit was announced in a video posted on Zelenskyy's Telegram channel. The footage showed the two leaders smiling and shaking hands before holding talks on Russia's invasion.

"Since the first days of the war, Ukraine and the UK have been the strongest of allies," Zelenskyy wrote.

"During today's meeting, we discussed the most important issues both for our countries and for global security."

Sunak later posted the same video on Twitter, writing that "Britain knows what it means to fight for freedom" and told Zelenskyy "we are with you all the way."

The British prime minister also announced a new air defense package for Ukraine, particularly to help boost protection against Iranian-supplied drones.

The latest batch of aid is set to include "anti-aircraft guns, radar and anti-drone equipment" as well as "humanitarian support for the cold, hard winter ahead," Sunak said in a statement.

The air-defense package, which Britain valued at 50 million pounds (€57.5 million or $60 million), comes on top of a delivery of more than 1,000 anti-air missiles that London announced earlier this month.

It was Sunak's first visit to Ukraine since taking office last month, following the short-lived premiership of his predecessor Liz Truss.

Here are the other main headlines from the war in Ukraine on Saturday, November 19:

Ukraine to begin voluntary evacuation from liberated southern areas

Ukraine will soon begin evacuating people who want to leave the recently liberated southern city of Kherson and the surrounding areas, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

According to Vereshchuk, some residents have asked to be relocated from both Kherson and the area around Mykolaiv, around 65 kilometers (40 miles) to the northwest.

"This is possible in the next few days," she told a televised news conference in Mykolaiv when asked when the evacuations would begin, saying the government had already made the necessary preparations.

Among those who wanted to leave were the elderly and those who had been affected by Russian shelling, Vereshchuk said.

"This is only a voluntary evacuation. Currently, we are not talking about forced evacuation," she added.

Kyiv says Russian troops destroyed Kherson's critical infrastructure before leaving earlier this month.

Zelenskyy says restoring power is a top priority

Getting Ukraine's power supply up and running after waves of Russian attacks on infrastructure remains a top priority, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address.

"We're working across the whole country to stabilize the situation," he said. "Most of the problems with electricity are in Kyiv and its surroundings, Odesa and its surroundings, Kharkiv and its surroundings."

Zelenskyy also added that everything was being done to "help people have a normal life" but noted that about 50% of the country's energy infrastructure has been destroyed.

First Ukrainian passenger train arrives in Kherson

A Ukrainian passenger train rolled into Kherson for the first time in more than eight months as residents of the newly liberated southern city greeted it on the platform with flowers and national flags.

Ukrainian forces liberated Kherson from Russian occupation on November 11 in what amounted to another major battlefield setback for Moscow. It had been the only regional capital captured by Russian forces since the February 24 invasion.

The train, which was brightly painted by various Ukrainian artists and featured slogans such as "People of Steel", departed Kyiv late on Friday following a celebratory event at the main railway station.

Poland holds first of two state funerals for victim of missile strike

The first of two Polish victims killed in a missile strike this week in the country's border area with Ukraine has been buried with a state funeral.

The funeral of the 62-year-old camp administrator took place in the small village of Przewodow with a military ceremony.

A missile hit a granary in the village, just 6 kilometres from the border with Ukraine, on Tuesday. In addition to the 62-year-old man, a 60-year-old tractor driver was killed in the explosion. The second man's state funeral is to take place on Sunday.

The two men are the first civilians from Poland, a NATO member, to die as a result of the Russian war against Ukraine. At present, the West assumes that it was a Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile used to defend against attacks by the Russian military.

Ukraine probes videos over claims of prisoner executions

The Ukrainian army said it was checking the authenticity of footage that Moscow says proves Kyiv executed several surrendering Russian soldiers.

Videos circulated on Russian social media this week that purport to show the bodies of Russian servicemen killed after surrendering to Ukrainian troops.

"Before launching an investigation, there must be grounds for it. We are currently establishing whether these videos are fake," Ukraine's spokesman for the general staff Bogdan Senyk said.

The Russian Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes, said it opened a criminal case into the "execution of captured Russian servicemen".

Kyiv rejects idea of 'short truce' with Russia

Ukrainian officials rejected the possibility of a short truce with Russia, saying that Moscow's troops must stop their invasion to ensure lasting peace.

Senior Ukrainian presidential aide, Andriy Yermak, said on Saturday that peace will "only" be possible if the country's borders are restored to their 1991 status.

"There will be peace when we destroy the Russian army in Ukraine and reach the borders of 1991," Yermak, who heads the presidential administration, wrote on Telegram.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday said Russia would use a temporary halt to hostilities in order to rebuild its forces.

"Russia is now looking for a short truce, a respite to regain strength. Someone may call this the war's end, but such a respite will only worsen the situation," Zelenskyy said in remarks broadcast at the Halifax International Security Forum.

"A truly real, long-lasting and honest peace can only be the result of the complete demolition of Russian aggression," the Ukrainian leader said.

Zelenskyy's comments come after top US military officer, General Mark Milley, suggested that the Ukrainian government could take advantage of its recent military victories against Russia to open talks on ending the conflict.

The White House on Friday rejected the notion that the US is pushing Kyiv to negotiate an end to the nearly nine-month war that was sparked by Russia's invasion in February.

Over 400 children killed in war, Ukrainian official says

At least 437 children have been killed in Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion in February, Ukraine's Prosecutor General said on Saturday.

The latest tally also said over 837 children have been injured due to fighting and shelling.

Children in the eastern Donetsk region have been particularly affected, the prosecutor's office said — with other 400 children killed and injured in the area since February.

According to UN estimates, at least 16,200 civilians have been killed since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the large-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

Moscow has denied targeting civilians.

Finland says NATO bid 'natural' after Russia invasion

Finland's foreign minister said his country's move to apply for NATO membership was not an impulsive decision, but rather a natural course of action to address security threats from Moscow.

The country's NATO bid is "a result of the drastic change in our security environment", Finland's top diplomat Pekka Haavisto told the annual Manama Dialogue conference in Bahrain.

"Applying for NATO membership was... a natural step for us to take," he added.

Finland and Sweden dropped their decades-long policy of military non-alignment in the aftermath of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

On Friday, Finland announced plans to construct a 200-kilometer (124-mile) fence on its border with Russia and increase security.

Only Turkey and Hungary have not yet ratified Finland's accession to the trans-Atlantic military alliance.

'Most' APEC leaders condemn war in Ukraine

Asia-Pacific leaders criticized the war in Ukraine and the economic turmoil it has unleashed on global markets, according to an APEC communique.

Russia and China are members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, and agreed on the final summit text — although some sections were softened.

"Most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and stressed it is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy," the joint statement read.

"There were other views and different assessments of the situation and sanctions."

The communique from the 21-nation economic bloc came after talks in Bangkok that were overshadowed by geopolitical rivalries.

More on the war in Ukraine

Ukraine has appointed its former ambassador to Germany, Andrij Melnyk, to a new post as deputy foreign minister. His outspoken brand of diplomacy had made waves in recent months.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has put increased urgency on an EU project to launch its own communications satellite system.

rs/kb (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)