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President Volodymyr Zelensky heads to London as Ukraine seeks more arms

President Volodymyr Zelensky is due in London for only his second trip abroad since Russia invaded Ukraine last year, seeking additional arms to combat an expected major assault.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s office on Wednesday said Mr Zelensky would visit troops training in Britain and address the British parliament.

Mr Sunak’s office announced plans to expand training for Ukraine’s military to include fighter jet pilots and marines – and accelerate the supply of military equipment.

“President Zelensky’s visit to the UK is a testament to his country’s courage, determination and fight, and a testament to the unbreakable friendship between our two countries,” Sunak said in the statement.

Mr Zelensky visited the United States in December and addressed Congress on his only trip abroad since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February last year.

Western countries have dramatically scaled up their pledges of military support for Ukraine since the start of the new year, including promises of hundreds of tanks and armoured vehicles.

Kyiv still wants longer-range missiles and war planes.

After major Ukrainian gains in the second half of 2022, Russia has recovered momentum, with tens of thousands of freshly mobilised troops reaching the front.

Russian forces have made incremental progress in relentless winter battles in the east of the country in recent weeks, which both sides describe as some of the bloodiest fighting of the war.

Kyiv says it expects Moscow to broaden that offensive with a big push as the February 24 first anniversary of the invasion approaches.

“They need to have something to show before their people, and have a major desire to do something big, as they see it, by this date,” Ukraine’s national security chief Oleksiy Danilov told Reuters on Tuesday in an interview.

He predicted Russia, which has focused lately on the Donetsk region in the east, would try new attacks on Kharkiv further north or Zaporizhzhia further south.

“How successful they’ll be will depend on us.”

Russia launched its “special military operation” to combat what it describes as a security threat from Ukraine’s ties to the West, and says Western supplies of weapons to Kyiv will only prolong the war. It claims to have annexed four Ukrainian provinces last year.

Ukraine says the only way to stop the war is for the West to give it the capability to drive out Russian forces.

The past 24 hours have been the deadliest of the war so far for Russian forces, Ukraine said, as Moscow presses on with an intensifying winter assault in the east, bringing tens of thousands of freshly mobilised troops to the battlefield.

The Ukrainian claim of more than 1000 Russian troops killed in a day on Tuesday could not be independently verified and Russia has also claimed to have killed large numbers of Ukrainian troops in recent weeks.

Separately, Russia demanded the US embassy in Moscow stop spreading what Moscow regards as fake news about the military operation in Ukraine and has threatened to expel US diplomats, the TASS news agency reported on Tuesday.

The Ukrainian military increased its running tally of Russian military dead by 1030 overnight to 133,190, describing the increase as the highest of the war so far and among 1900 across two days.

Russia said it had inflicted 6500 Ukrainian casualties in January.

-Reuters

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