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UK to send Challenger 2 tanks and artillery systems to Ukraine – Rishi Sunak

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced that the UK will send Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine to bolster the country’s war effort.

On Saturday, he spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which he confirmed that he would send equipment and other artillery systems, Number 10 reported.

Downing Street said the move showed the UK’s “ambition to step up support”.

The BBC understands the initial commitment is for 14 tanks.

About 30 AS90s, which are large self-propelled guns, are also expected to be delivered.

President Zelenskyy thanked the United Kingdom and said the decision to send tanks “will not only strengthen us on the battlefield, but also send the right signal to other partners.”

He said UK support was “always strong” and “now impenetrable”.

No 10 said that during the call, Mr Sunak and Mr Zelenskiy also discussed Ukraine’s recent victories, as well as “the need to seize this moment to accelerate global military and diplomatic support”.

The announcement comes as a number of rocket attacks have been reported in various locations across Ukraine – including the Kharkiv and Lviv regions in the east and west of the country.

Five people are known to have died and at least 15 others were rescued from the rubble after a nine-storey apartment building in Dnipro was damaged in a single blow.

Mr Sunak said the Challengers, the British Army’s main battle tank, would help Kiev forces “push the Russian troops back”.

Built in the late 1990s, the Challenger tank is more than 20 years old, but it will be the most modern tank available to Ukraine. The tanks will provide Ukraine with better protection and more accurate firepower.

While the donation itself is not considered game-changing, it is hoped that the UK’s move will inspire other countries to donate more modern equipment to help Ukraine.

The chairman of the defense select committee, Tobias Ellwood, said he welcomed that the UK was “getting serious about the hardware it supplies to Ukraine” but that international help had been “too slow”.

He told BBC Breakfast: “That’s exactly what Russia wants us to do – remain hesitant.

“If we don’t step up and support Ukraine, Russia will not go away – and that will mean the tyrant has won.”

He emphasized that he wants to see an arms factory in eastern Poland, which would allow Ukraine to acquire its own weapons in the long term.

Currently, Poland plans to send 14 of its German-made Leopard tanks.

But tanks, of which there are more and are used by many European armies, need Germany’s approval to export to Ukraine.

Ukraine also hopes the US will supply some of its Abrams tanks, which use the same ammunition as the Leopard.

Earlier this month, Germany and the US agreed to join France in sending armored fighting vehicles to Ukraine – a move seen as a significant boost to their military capabilities on the battlefield.

Shadow Defense Secretary John Healey said the government had Labour’s “fullest support” for the decision to deploy the Challengers.

He said: “Modern tanks are key to Ukraine’s efforts to win the battle against Russian aggression.”

Responding to reports of the Challenger tanks, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said: “As we have said before, arms deliveries are a legitimate target of Russian strikes.”

The Russian military earlier announced it had captured the salt mining town of Soledar after a long battle, calling it an “important” step for its offensive.

A victory would allow Russian troops to push into the nearby town of Bakhmut and cut off Ukrainian forces there, the spokesman said.

But Ukrainian officials said the fight for Soledar was still ongoing and accused Russia of “information noise”.

On Saturday, rocket attacks were reported at locations across Ukraine, including critical infrastructure sites in Kharkiv and the Lviv region, according to local officials.

The attacks are part of a wider campaign in recent months by the Russian military, which has been bombing Ukraine’s infrastructure since October, causing blackouts and disruptions to central heating and running water in freezing winter conditions.

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