Britain is preparing to announce a fresh package of military aid for Ukraine and has demonstrated new missile systems and armoured vehicles that it believes can help Kyiv in the next phases of fighting.
Junior defence ministers Jeremy Quin and James Heappey invited Ukraine’s deputy defence minister Volodymyr Havrylov to Salisbury Plain on Wednesday, where they discussed what extra weapons the UK could supply.
“It was an honour to show Minister Havrylov and his generals the kit the UK hopes to provide next and to discuss some new weapons that have been trialled recently with UK forces,” Heappey said.
The army and Royal Marines demonstrated a range of equipment and “options for further military support”, which, the Ministry of Defence said, included “defensive missile systems and protected mobility vehicles”.
The protected mobility vehicle is thought to refer to the Mastiff, a heavily armoured patrol vehicle, first deployed in Afghanistan, which would help Ukraine’s forces achieve greater manoeuvrability against Russian attacks in the eastern Donbas.
It is less certain what artillery could be provided, although there has been speculation that the UK could offer the AS-90 howitzer, which has a range of nearly 15 miles and would help Ukraine’s forces contend with Russian shelling.
Either would be a modest step up from the 4,200-plus NLAW anti-tank bazookas and the Starstreak anti-aircraft systems the UK has already sent to Ukraine, described by the UK as “defensive weaponry” designed to prevent the Russians from swiftly conquering the country.
One source said that Downing Street was likely to make an announcement on the next steps for military aid before the end of the week.
Boris Johnson, the UK prime minister, met Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, on Thursday afternoon, where the issue was discussed. “Both leaders agreed that the west needed to accelerate its support to Ukraine in the coming days and go further and faster with the equipment it was supplying,” said Downing Street after the meeting.
Western countries have begun pledging a fresh wave of military aid after Russia’s initial attack on Kyiv was repulsed, recognising that the conflict had moved to a new phase in which Ukraine is trying to prevent Moscow’s forces advancing in the east and holding on to gains made in the south of the country.
A donor conference convened by the UK and attended by more than 35 countries last week hammered out what each state was willing to supply. At the time, Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, said that the best counter to Russia’s artillery was “other long-range artillery”.
Some countries have already announced their plans. The US has committed $400m (£300m) of aid in the past week, including the APKWS rockets that can be used from air and land, and 10 Switchblade 600 drones that employ the same missiles used by the Javelin anti-tank weapon.
The Czech Republic has committed tens of T-72 Soviet-designed tanks – the first time a Nato country has agreed to such send heavy armour to Ukraine. But it is still only a modest contribution to Kyiv’s war effort.