Express & Star

Ukrainian ambassador rides in a tank during visit to region

Ukraine's ambassador went for a ride in a tank during a visit to Shropshire – and asked the UK Government to provide more.

Ukrainian ambassador Vadym Prystaiko joins RBSL engineer Jon Wilton aboard a Challenger 2 tank

Vadym Prystaiko was taken for a spin in a Challenger 2 tank during a visit to the RBSL defence works in Telford at the invitation of Wrekin MP Mark Pritchard.

The tank, made by RBSL's parent company BAE, was identical to the 14 tanks that the UK has agreed to supply Ukrainian forces with in their war effort.

Mr Prystaiko was also taken on a tour of the factory at Hadley Castle by managing director Colin McClean, where he met members of the workforce.

He was shown the work that was taking place to update the tanks to become the Challenger 3.

Mr Prystaiko said his country was hugely grateful for the tanks which would make a significant difference in the war to repel the Russian invasion.

The ambassador, who is an engineer by trade, said he was hugely impressed by the tank, which had a surprisingly smooth ride.

"This unbelievable machine has never lost in battle, and we are very much hoping it will continue that record for us in the Ukraine," he said.

"This is a great piece of machinery, but we need more. That is very important. We need more."

Vadym Prystaiko is taken on a tour of RBSL by managing director Colin McClean

He said his country was extremely grateful for the support it had received from Britain, and said the Ukrainian Army would reciprocate by buying equipment from RBSL in future.

Mr Pritchard presented the ambassador with a scale model of a Challenger 2 tank, which Mr Prystaiko joked was the 15th tank Britain had given to his country.

Mr Pritchard, a former chairman of the Ukraine parliamentary group, said the workforce of RBSL could be proud of the contribution they made.

"Throughout the county, men and women, in uniform and civilians, are doing a huge amount to protect our freedoms," he said.

"The Ukrainian border is freedom's border. You who work at RBSL, remember what you are doing when you get up on a weary Friday morning or a wet Monday, just remember why you are doing it. You are making a difference, every one of you, whether you are in a senior position or a junior one."

From right, Ukrainian ambassador Vadym Prystaiko, Mark Pritchard MP and RBSL managing director Colin McClean with a Challenger 2 tank

Mr Pritchard said he would be pressing the UK Government to do more to support the war effort in the Ukraine.

RBSL is a joint venture between Britain’s BAE Systems and Germany's Rheinmetall AG for the design, manufacture and support of military vehicles.

Mark Pritchard MP and RBSL managing director Colin McClean with Ukrainian ambassador Vadym Prystaiko

Mr McClean, himself a former soldier, said: "The workforce at RBSL – be they our youngest apprentice or those who have been with the business over 40 years – take great pride in what we do for all our customers.

"We have nothing but the utmost respect for the bravery of the Ukrainian people and we will do all we can to support the equipment supplied by the British Government to the Ukrainian Army.

"It is therefore an honour to welcome Ukraine’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom to our Headquarters in Telford and show him both the capability and the human passion that lies behind equipment such as the Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank.”

In March last year, Mr Prystaiko – a former vice prime minister and foreign minister of Ukraine – was given a rare standing ovation from MPs when he sat in the public gallery at the House of Commons.