Sunak and Zelensky discuss ramping up military support for Ukraine

The Prime Minister told the Ukrainian president that Britain and its allies “needed to continue to ensure Ukraine was in the strongest possible position to build on its recent battlefield successes”. Mr Sunak paid tribute to the efforts of Ukrainian troops in the city of Bakhmut which has been the scene of ferocious battles for months.

The Ministry of Defence said in its daily intelligence briefing that Ukrainian forces had been forced to make “orderly withdrawals” from positions in the war-torn Donetsk city after “particularly intense” Russian artillery fire over the past 48 hours.

It said Russia has “re-energised” its assault on Bakhmut with “improved cooperation” between troops and the Wagner private military force.

Mr Sunak also said a gruesome video which claimed to show the beheading of a Ukrainian soldier by Kremlin troops was “appalling” and those responsible must be held to account.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “The Prime Minister spoke to President Zelensky this morning. The leaders discussed the latest situation on the battlefield and the Prime Minister paid tribute to the efforts of the Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut.

“Discussing the abhorrent beheading of a Ukrainian soldier shown on social media… the Prime Minister said the video was appalling and those responsible had to be held to account.

“The leaders also discussed efforts to accelerate military support to Ukraine.

“And the Prime Minister said the UK and its allies needed to continue to ensure Ukraine was in the strongest possible position to build on recent battlefield successes.

“That included increasing inter-operability with Nato both in the short and long term. The leaders agreed to stay in close touch.”

Mr Zelensky has lobbied Western countries for months to supply modern warplanes, anti-aircraft defence systems and ammunition.

Ukrainian officials have spoken of preparations for an expected spring counter-offensive.

Britain has offered to train Ukrainian pilots on Nato-standard jets but allies have been reluctant to release them.

Mr Sunak and Mr Zelensky’s call came after a leak of US classified defence documents online.

It appeared to lay bare military secrets in Ukraine, including claims that up to 50 UK special forces soldiers have been deployed to the war region.

However, Ministry of Defence chiefs have warned against taking allegations contained in the leak at “face value”.

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