A local resident stands as rescuers work at the site of a Russian missile strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine December 29, 2023

By Harrison Jones

BBC News

The UK will send more air defence missiles to Ukraine after Russia launched a wave of air strikes overnight, the government has said.

The Ministry of Defence said about 200 weapons would be provided.

At least 30 people were killed in the biggest wave of Russian attacks since the war began, Ukrainian officials say.

UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said the package “sends an undeniable message” that Britain is “absolutely committed to supporting Ukraine”.

Mr Shapps branded the wave of strikes – which Ukraine’s military said comprised 158 missiles and drones targeting a number of cities simultaneously – “murderous”. More than 160 people were injured in cities including Kyiv, Odesa, Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv and Lviv.

The defence secretary suggested the attacks were “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.”

He explained that the package would restock UK-gifted air defence systems capable of striking down Russian drones and missiles with “incredible accuracy”.

The delivery is intended to protect civilians and infrastructure from drones and bombing.

A view shows maternity hospital wards destroyed during a Russian missile strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Dnipro, Ukraine December 29, 2023.
Image caption,Maternity hospital wards were among buildings destroyed by Russian missile strikes in Dnipro overnight, Reuters reported

The advanced short range air-to-air missiles are designed to be launched from aircraft and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said Ukrainian operators have become adapt at using the weapons and have asked for more.

The MoD added that the UK has now supplied a squadron of battle-ready Challenger 2 tanks, three batteries of self-propelled AS90 guns, hundreds of armoured and protected vehicles, as well as long-range precision strike capability in the form of Storm Shadow cruise missiles and long-range attack drones – a total commitment of some £4.6bn.

But the latest announcement comes as questions are being asked about whether Western support for Ukraine is wavering after nearly two years of war there and a new conflict in the Middle East.

The most recent tranche of US support was approved this week, but further packages will need fresh approval from Congress.

A graphic showing aid to Ukraine by country

There has also been disagreement among European countries about aid for Ukraine, with Hungary blocking a £43bn (€50bn) EU aid package earlier this month.

Mr Shapps added: “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. And today’s air defence package sends an undeniable message, in the face of Russian barbarity that the UK remains absolutely committed to supporting Ukraine.”

He called on the West “to come together and redouble our efforts to get Ukraine what they need to win”.

Earlier, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak posted on social media that the attacks showed Russian President Vladimir Putin would “stop at nothing to achieve his aim of eradicating freedom and democracy”.

He said the UK http://nutriapel.com/ would “not let him win” and called for the country to “stand with Ukraine – for as long as it takes”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has spent recent weeks urging western allies to provide the country with more air defences to protect itself against such aerial attacks.

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