The boss of BAE Systems has discussed setting up weapons production inside Ukraine in talks with Volodymyr Zelensky.
In a further sign of Britain’s central role in arming Ukrainian forces, the FTSE 100 maker of Challenger 2 tanks, artillery pieces and ammunition crucial to the war against Russia held direct talks with the country’s president, both sides confirmed on Tuesday evening.
As well as manufacturing and repair facilities, Mr Zelensky and BAE chief executive Charles Woodburn discussed setting up a local office in the country.
Discussions are said to be ongoing with no timings yet agreed. The exact scale of production is also to be decided, although it is understood that capacity to overhaul tanks, armoured vehicles and other equipment locally is needed.
President Zelensky, who discussed the issues with Mr Woodburn in a video conversation, said on his Telegram social media feed: “We discussed the localization of production in Ukraine. We agreed to start work on opening a BAE Systems office in Ukraine, and subsequently repair and production facilities for the company’s products.
“We are ready to become a major regional hub for the repair and production of various types of products of BAE Systems and are interested in making our relations more global.”
Charles Woodburn, BAE Systems chief executive, said: “It was a privilege to speak with President Zelensky as part of ongoing discussions about the support we’re providing to Ukraine.
“We’re proud to be working with our government customers to provide equipment, training and support services to the Ukrainian armed forces. We’re also exploring how we could support the Ukrainian government as it revitalises the country’s defence industrial base to ensure their long-term security.”
The Telegraph revealed in February that officials were laying the groundwork for British weaponry and military vehicles to be manufactured in Ukraine under plans that would mark a deepening of the country’s ties with Nato.
Other European defence companies are also in talks with Ukraine, with Britain keen not to be beaten to the punch by French and German rivals. A race is on to put the UK “at the front of the queue”, one executive told The Telegraph at the time.