Zelenskyy presses allies for fighter jets in rare overseas trip
London, Feb 8 (EFE).- Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on the United Kingdom to supply modern fighter jets and thanked the nation for its “bravery” in supporting Kyiv since the onset of the Russian invasion.
Zelenskyy, who has only left his country once since Russia invaded nearly one year ago – a December visit to the United States and Poland – addressed British lawmakers at the historic Westminster Hall in London. He also met with prime minister Rishi Sunak and later King Charles III.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for your bravery,” he told lawmakers from the lower and upper chambers of parliament. “London has stood with Kyiv since day one, from the first seconds and minutes of the full-scale war.”
He said Ukraine would “do everything possible and impossible to make the world provide us with modern planes to empower and protect pilots who will be protecting us.”
He noted that the British king was a qualified fighter pilot.
“In Ukraine today, every air force pilot is a king,” he said.
At the conclusion of his speech, Zelenskyy presented parliamentary speaker Lindsay Hoyle with a Ukrainian air force helmet daubed with the message: “We have freedom. Give us wings to protect it.”
Ahead of his visit, Sunak’s office said in a statement that the UK would expand its military training program with Ukrainian troops to include fighter jets.
The UK and the United States have both fallen short of providing modern fighter jets to Ukraine, despite repeated requests from Kyiv.
Ahead of Zelenskyy’s address, Sunak said in a statement: “I am proud that today we will expand that training from soldiers to marines and fighter jet pilots, ensuring Ukraine has a military able to defend its interests well into the future.
“It also underlines our commitment to not just provide military equipment for the short term, but a long-term pledge to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Ukraine for years to come.”
The Downing Street statement added 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been “brought to battle readiness in the last six months” and that plans were in place to train a further 20,000 by the end of this year.
Ukrainian soldiers arrived in the UK last week to undergo training with Challenger 2 tanks after Sunak announced 14 of the battle vehicles would be sent to Ukraine.
Zelenskyy’s trip is due to continue on from London to Paris, where he will meet with France’s president Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s chancellor Olaf Scholz. EFE