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Rishi Sunak dismisses defence secretary’s jibe that Ukraine should show ‘gratitude’

Rishi Sunak has appeared to dismiss comments made by his Defence Secretary Ben Wallace which suggested Ukraine should show “gratitude” for military support given so far.

The prime minister said Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy had “repeatedly expressed gratitude” for what the UK had provided since the war started in February last year.

Mr Sunak was speaking to reporters on the final day of the Nato summit in Vilinius, Lithuania, shortly after a declaration of further long-term support for Ukraine by G7 leaders.

It came after Defence Secretary Ben Wallace appeared to suggest that Mr Zelenskyy should show “gratitude” for the help given so far, advising Ukraine’s leader to be mindful about keeping “doubtful politicians” in the US on-side.

In a message to Mr Zelenskyy, Mr Wallace told journalists that “we’re not Amazon”, referring to the US retail giant, adding: “There is a slight word of caution here which is that, whether we like it or not, people want to see gratitude”.

But in a bid to distance himself from the comments when asked about them shortly after, Mr Sunak said Ukraine’s president was leaving the summit with a “significant security victory”.

In a push back against his Cabinet minister, Mr Sunak said: “President Zelenskyy’s words are probably better than mine to describe it.

“He’s just described it by saying that the outcome of the Vilnius summit is a meaningful success for Ukraine.”

He also said the Ukrainian people were “incredibly grateful for the support we have shown”.
On Wednesday, G7 leaders signed a declaration guaranteeing long-term security measures for Ukraine, vowing to stand by the war-torn country for “as long as it takes”.

President Zelenskyy left the summit without confirmed membership of Nato, but was assured by Mr Sunak that he belongs in the international defensive alliance and that “meaningful progress” had been made on making that happen.

The pact signed on Wednesday promises to act on a country-to-country basis to offer Ukraine long-term security guarantees. For the UK’s part, they will see more Ukrainian pilots trained in Britain, a pledge hailed as a “new high point in international support” for the country.

The defence secretary’s comments came a day after Mr Zelenskyy voiced his frustration at Nato members failing to commit to a timeline for membership.

He said it was “absurd” for the alliance to insist there are still military and democratic “conditions” for the eastern European country to meet before it can join once the conflict with Moscow is over.

But the war leader seemed positive on Wednesday after the signing of the G7 declaration, saying he was leaving Vilnius with a “significant security victory for Ukraine”.