Ukraine's Zelenskiy expresses gratitude to new British PM on wartime support

KYIV (Reuters) -New British Prime Minister Keir Starmer told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that London would keep providing support for Kyiv in its war against Russia and the Ukrainian leader expressed gratitude for maintaining that stand.

"The prime minister began by setting out that it was important to him to reiterate the UK's unwavering commitment to Ukraine on his first day in office," a spokesperson for Starmer's office said in a statement.

"He added that the change of government in the UK would make no difference to the UK’s support for Ukraine, and that the UK would continue supplying the defensive support Ukraine needed in the face of Russian aggression."

Zelenskiy, writing on the Telegram messaging app, said he had wished the new prime minister success in fulfilling the expectations of the British people.

"I am grateful to Keir Starmer for his assurances that Britain's support for Ukraine will remain unchanged in principle," Zelenskiy wrote.

He and Starmer, he said, had "coordinated our positions" ahead of next week's NATO summit at which Ukraine hopes to hear of possible steps for Kyiv to secure membership in the alliance.

A senior U.S. official said NATO allies at their summit in Washington would unveil a "bridge to membership" plan for Ukraine and announce steps to bolster Kyiv's air defenses.

The Downing Street spokesperson said Starmer and Zelenskiy discussed both the NATO summit and the European Political Community Summit later this month. Starmer, the spokesperson said, hoped to meet the Ukrainian leader soon.

Zelenskiy said he looked forward to starting preparations on a long-term agreement between their two countries.

The Ukrainian president had earlier issued a message on social media platform X saying he looked forward to working on security issues.

"Ukraine and the United Kingdom have been and will continue to be reliable allies through thick and thin. We will continue to defend and advance our common values of life, freedom, and a rules-based international order," Zelenskiy wrote.

He also thanked outgoing Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for his steadfast support.

(Reporting by Anastasiia Malenko and Mrinmay Dey, Editing by Ron Popeski, Alistair Bell and Chris Reese)