The defence secretary said the shipment would help take down Russian drones amid Putin’s ‘murderous’ airstrikes

Geraldine Scott

December 30, 2023

The Times


Britain has shipped hundreds of air­defence missiles to Ukraine, Grant Shapps revealed as President Putin launched “murderous airstrikes” in the biggest aerial barrage of the war so far.  The defence secretary said that about 200 missiles had been sent after Rishi Sunak condemned the Russian leader’s assault. It is hoped that the shipment will help Ukraine to defend itself from what Sunak called “widespread attacks”. Hundreds of drones and missiles were believed to have been launched by Russia overnight on cities including Kyiv, Lviv and Odesa.

Shapps said: “Putin’s latest wave of murderous airstrikes is a desperate and futile attempt to regain momentum after the catastrophic loss of hundreds of thousands of conscripts and ahead of the humiliation of his three-day war entering a third calendar year. We continue to stand by Ukraine’s defence, which is why today we are sending hundreds of air defence missiles to restock British-gifted air defence systems capable of striking down Russian drones and missiles with incredible accuracy.”

The missiles are made in Britain by the defence firm MBDA and are designed to be launched from aircraft including British Typhoon and F-35 jets.

Shapps said: “Putin is testing Ukraine’s defences and the West’s resolve, hoping that he can clutch victory from the jaws of defeat. But he is wrong. Ukraine’s degradation of the Russian Black Sea fleet has proven it is still in this fight to win. Today’s air defence package sends an undeniable message, in the face of Russian barbarity, that the UK remains committed to supporting Ukraine. Now is the time for the free world to come together and redouble efforts to get Ukraine what they need.”

In the latest offensive Russia launched 122 missiles and 36 drones against Ukrainian targets, killing at least 18 civilians in what military officials said was the biggest aerial barrage of the war so far. The Ukrainian air force intercepted 87 missiles and 27 of the Shahed-type drones, officials said.

It is feared that the scale of the attack could mark the start of a fresh campaign targeting critical infrastructure. President Zelensky has spent recent weeks urging western allies to provide more air defences so his country can protect itself against such aerial attacks.

On Twitter/X Sunak wrote: “These widespread attacks on Ukraine’s cities show Putin will stop at nothing to achieve his aim of eradicating freedom and democracy. We will not let him win. We must continue to stand with Ukraine — for as long as it takes.”

Fighting has been largely bogged down by winter weather after Ukraine’s summer counteroffensive failed to make a significant breakthrough along the roughly 620-mile line of contact.

Zelensky said the Kremlin’s forces have used a wide variety of weapons, including ballistic and cruise missiles. He added: “We will continue to fight for the security of our entire country, every city and every citizen. Russian terror must and will lose.”

Britain has committed £4.6 billion to the war, with £2.3 billion set aside up to the end of the financial year. This week President Biden released $250 million of US funding, but further cash will need Congressional approval.


Geri Scott is senior political correspondent at The Times, previously covering politics for PA and The Yorkshire Post. In 2020 she was a winner at the 30 to Watch Young Journalist Awards and in 2021 named one of 100 women to watch in Westminster.