British arms manufacturer BAE Systems has launched a legal entity in Ukraine and signed deals to help provide Kyiv with defence weapons and equipment.
The firm said it will work directly with Ukraine on securing partnerships to produce 105mm light guns – artillery weapons.
BAE is the biggest defence contractor in the UK and has made much of the arms Britain and other governments have provided to Kyiv amid Putin’s illegal invasion.
In May, the UK became the first country to supply Ukraine with long-range cruise missiles.
Posting on social media website X, formerly Twitter, President Volodymyr Zelensky wrote: “The best weapons that are currently helping our warriors defend Ukraine should be produced in Ukraine. The development of our own weapons production is a top priority.”
His comments followed a meeting with the BAE chief executive Charles Woodburn.
He said in a statement: “Signing the agreements and establishing a legal entity in Ukraine builds on our existing trust and support and paves the way for us to work together to provide more direct support to the Ukrainian armed forces.”
Oleksandr Kamyshin, Ukraine’s minister for strategic industry, added: “I am grateful to BAE Systems for the bold decision to stand side by side with us in the fight against Russian aggression and building the future of the Ukrainian defence industry.”
In May Zelensky said his country was working with BAE on opening an office in Ukraine, while the UK’s City minister Andrew Griffith urged British investors for ‘defunding’ UK defence giants like BAE.
Kyiv is keen to boost its weapons arsenal and also to create job opportunities for its citizens amid an economy affected by war.
BAE is also already providing training and repair services to Ukraine’s armed forces.
And the news comes days after Zelensky signed a joint statement with Sweden to reaffirm cooperation to produce and operate CV90 armoured vehicles, made by a Swedish BAE unit.