Vladimir Putin is trying to freeze and starve Ukraine’s people into giving up this winter by attacking power and water supplies but he will fail, the foreign secretary has told Sky News.

James Cleverly, on his first visit to Ukraine, said he had never seen such devastation before and said it was vital for the UK and other allies to keep up their support until Kyiv “prevails”.

Revealing how he had even briefly experienced a sense of the basic hardship endured by most Ukrainians, the minister said there had been no power or water at the British ambassador’s residence in the capital when he arrived on Wednesday after a barrage of Russian missile strikes against the energy grid.

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“By lunchtime the following day, the water had been repaired and was back up and running,” Mr Cleverly said.

“The speed and the resilience of the people of Kyiv and the people of Ukraine is a wonder to behold, which is why I am confident, with the continued support of the international community, the Ukrainians will prevail.”

The foreign secretary was speaking on Friday in the town of Irpin, on the outskirts of the capital, which was heavily bombarded when Russian forces attempted to storm Kyiv in the first weeks of the full-scale invasion.

The Ukrainian military, helped by British and other Western weapons, pushed them back, paving the way for efforts to rebuild the shattered lives of civilians – even as the war rages on in the east and the south and with the persistent threat of airstrikes.

Mr Cleverly visited a school, damaged in the onslaught, that is due to reopen next week thanks in part to UK funds.

He also announced further civilian support – on top of weapons – for Ukraine, including 24 ambulances and six armoured vehicles.

The foreign secretary pressed ahead with his Ukraine trip – which included a meeting on Thursday with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy – even though he was entering the country as Vladimir Putin’s forces struck missiles against energy and water infrastructure.

“I think it is incredibly important that the UK demonstrates to the Ukrainian people – who are bearing the brunt of this brutality from Russia – that we are standing shoulder to shoulder with them,” he said.

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Mr Cleverly said the Russian tactic to hurt civilians was a mark of desperation at its failure to succeed on the battlefield.

“Vladimir Putin is targeting their energy infrastructure, their water infrastructure, he is trying to starve and freeze the Ukrainians into submission,” he said.

James Cleverly meets Ukraine's foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba
Image:
Mr Cleverly with Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba

He added: “What I’ve also seen is those same Ukrainians forcing themselves to go about their lives as normally as possible. These students here in this college were desperate to come back to the classroom, to mix with their friends, to learn.

“There is a resilience and there is a toughness here in Ukraine that we are happy to support and seeing it leaves me in no doubt that the Ukrainians will prevail and that Vladimir Putin will fail in this invasion.”

Politics

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