Zelenskyy asks Macron, Scholz for fighter jets, heavy weapons

(Updates with Paris visit, quotes)

Paris, Feb 8 (EFE).- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a surprise visit to Paris on Wednesday to ask France and Germany to quickly delivery modern combat aircraft and more heavy weaponry so that Kyiv can bring the Russian invasion, launched almost a year ago, to a close as quickly as possible.

“The sooner we have heavy weapons and modern aircraft the more quickly this war will end and we’ll be able to return to peace in Europe,” said Zelenskyy in a joint statement with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz before meeting for a working dinner in the Elysee Palace at which the trio were to discuss the continuation of Western military support for Kyiv, among other things.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Ukrainian leader had met with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in London before addressing lawmakers at Westminster Hall, where he thanked the country for its backing but also called for the UK to provide fighter jets.

Sunak had said that “nothing was off the table,” adding that he had agreed with Zelenskyy regarding the training of Ukrainian pilots to be able to operate the aircraft if London decides to provide them.

In Paris, Zelenskyy said that he was speaking about acquiring the “necessary weapons” because “we need to stop the war.”

Macron assured Zelenskyy of his “determination to stand by him until victory” against Russian forces.

“What is in play in Ukraine is the future of Europe, and we’re very much aware of that,” said the French leader.

“Ukraine can count on France, its European partners and allies to win the war. Russia cannot and must not win it,” said Macron before the meeting.

The French president noted that Zelenskyy’s last visit to Elysee Palace was in December 2019 for a summit among the so-called “Normandy format” (an informal security pact among France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine) to try and “avoid the worst.” Also present at that meeting was Russian President Vladimir Putin.

For his part, Scholz said that it was “a strong sign” that Zelenskyy will travel to Brussels on Thursday to attend a meeting of the heads of state and government of the European Union members, given that “Ukraine is part of the European family.”

“Russia must not win this war,” said Scholz, echoing Macron’s remarks.

Zelenskyy on Thursday in Brussels will attend a session of the European Council at which continuation of the community’s aid to Ukraine will be one of the main topics of discussion.

The Ukrainian leader will spend the night in Paris at a hotel, according to local media, and the same sources reported that on Wednesday he will travel to Brussels on the same aircraft as Macron, although Elysee Palace has not provided any further details for security reasons.

Prior to this trip to visit several European capitals, Zelenskyy had only visited two foreign countries since the beginning of the Russian invasion on Feb. 24, 2022, namely the United States and Poland.

On the issue of heavy weaponry, Germany, The Netherlands and Denmark announced on Tuesday that they will jointly send Kyiv a total of more than 100 heavy German-made Leopard 1 A5 tanks, a shipment that will be completed in 2024.

While other European countries are preparing additional shipments of Leopard 1 or 2 models and the UK has announced that it will send Challenger tanks to Ukraine, Kyiv has raised the stakes in recent days by asking the West for modern fighter bombers, given that its air force is made up of aircraft using former Soviet technology and has been significantly reduced in size and capability during the past year of warfare.

EFE rcf-ngp/bp

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