Rishi Sunak confirms UK will send 14 Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine

Ukraine: Dnipro emergency services on scene after strike on flats

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Defence Secretary Ben Wallace will today set out details for 14 British Challenger 2 tanks to be sent to Ukraine, along with around 30 AS90 artillery guns.

Ministers hope it will encourage other countries to send battle tanks to Ukraine.

The Russian embassy in the UK immediately condemned the announcement, accusing London of intensifying the conflict.

The embassy claimed: “Bringing tanks to the conflict zone, far from drawing the hostilities to a close, will only serve to intensify combat operations, generating more casualties, including among the civilian population.”

Downing Street said the move shows “the UK’s ambition to intensify support”.

President Zelensky has thanked the UK, saying that the decision to send the tanks “will not only strengthen us on the battlefield, but also send the right signal to other partners”.

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

Mr Sunak and Mr Zelensky, who spoke on Saturday night, discussed recent Ukrainian victories, as well as the “need to seize on this moment with an acceleration of global military and diplomatic support”.

Meanwhile, Moscow used missiles designed to destroy aircraft carriers to hit homes in Dnipro, killing at least 25 people, as they resumed strikes on civilian targets and Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.

Emergency crews worked through the night amid freezing temperatures, using a crane as they tried to rescue people trapped on upper floors of the tower where about 1,700 were living.

Some residents signalled for help with lights on their mobile phones.

Dnipro residents joined rescue workers at the scene to help clear the rubble. Others brought food and warm clothes for those who had lost their homes.

Ivan Garnuk was in his apartment when the building was hit and said he felt lucky to have survived. He described his shock that the Russians would strike a residential building with no strategic value.

“There are no military facilities here. There is nothing here,” he said. “There is no air defence, there are no military bases here. It just hit civilians, innocent people.”

“This is clearly terrorism and all this is simply not human,” one local, Artem Myzychenko, said as he cleared rubble.

And Vladimir Putin yesterday claimed Russian forces were making positive gains.

But British defence chiefs believe Ukrainian forces can take advantage of a “window of opportunity” with the Russian military struggling to get supplies to the frontline and plummeting morale.

Yurii Ihnat, spokesman for the Ukrainian air force, said the Kh-22 “was fired from a Tu-22M3 long-range bomber, launched from the area near Kursk and the Sea of Azov.”

“There were a total of five launches of these missiles,” Ihnat said.

Speaking of Saturday’s attack, Ihnat said: “They hit with such a missile a densely populated city with people, women, children. There is no explanation and justification for this terrorist act.”

Kh-22 missiles were developed in the 1960s to destroy the US’ largest warships but are now, once again, being fired by Russian Tupolev-22M bombers against civilian targets in Ukraine.

“This is how Soviet generals dreamed of sinking American aircraft carriers in the name of the ideals of Communism,” the Ukrainian ministry of defence said.

Russian president Vladimir Putin said the special military operation was showing a positive trend and that he hoped Russian soldiers would deliver further gains after Soledar.

“The dynamic is positive,” Mr Putin told Rossiya 1 state television. “Everything is developing within the framework of the plan of the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff.”

“And I hope that our fighters will please us even more with the results of their combat,” he said.

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