Zelenskyy Makes Surprise Visit To London
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy flew to London on Wednesday to thank the British people for their support in fending off Russia’s nearly yearlong invasion of his country and predicted that Ukraine would win the war.
“We know freedom will win, we know Russia will lose,” Zelenskyy told the British Parliament. “We know the victory will change the world, and this will be the change that the world has long needed. The United Kingdom is marching with us towards the most important victory of our lifetime.”
Zelenskyy also met with King Charles at Buckingham Palace in what was Zelenskyy’s second trip abroad since the Russian invasion began last February 24. In December, the Ukrainian leader went to Washington to meet with President Joe Biden and address Congress.
Later Wednesday, Zelenskyy was to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Paris.
“I have come here and stand before you on behalf of the brave, on behalf of our warriors, who are now in the trenches under enemy artillery fire,” Zelenskyy told Parliament, paying tribute to Ukraine’s military. “I thank you for your bravery. … London has stood with Kyiv since day one.”
Hundreds of lawmakers and parliamentary staff packed 900-year-old Westminster Hall, the oldest — and unheated — part of Parliament, for Zelenskyy’s speech.
Britain has been one of Ukraine’s biggest military supporters, sending more than $2.5 billion in weapons and equipment.
The visit came as British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that Britain would train Ukrainian pilots on “NATO-standard fighter jets.” More than 10,000 Ukrainian troops have also been trained at bases in the United Kingdom, some on the Challenger 2 tanks that Britain is sending.
“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,” Sunak said.
Zelenskyy called on British lawmakers to offer even more advanced fighter jets, a plea he has also made to the United States and its Western allies. “We … will do everything possible and impossible to make the world provide us with modern planes to empower and protect pilots who will be protecting us,” Zelenskyy said.
Later, at a joint news conference in front of a tank at the Lulworth Camp training base, Sunak said fighter jets were “part of the conversation” about support for Ukraine.
“Nothing is off the table,” he said. “We must arm Ukraine in the short term, but we must bolster Ukraine for the long term.”
Zelenskyy has mostly addressed Western leaders via video from Kyiv. But European officials in Brussels suggested it was possible he could also appear in person before a summit of leaders from the 27-nation bloc meeting there on Thursday.
On the battlefront, Ukraine said Russia was continuing its artillery bombardment in the eastern region of the country, in what Kyiv officials have said they think is part of a new thrust to mark the anniversary of the invasion.
Russian forces over the past day also launched major shelling on areas near the front line in Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region, killing a 74-year-old woman and wounding a 16-year-old girl in the border town of Vovchansk, local Governor Oleh Syniehubov said.
Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands said Tuesday that they were planning to send at least 100 older, refurbished Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine.
The Leopard 1 tanks were manufactured from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s and, once made battle-ready again, will not reach Kyiv’s fighters until the summer months. The defense ministers of Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands said in a statement that the additional weaponry would “significantly enhance Ukraine’s military potential for the restoration of their violated territorial integrity.”
The German defense ministry said that authorities in Berlin had approved the export of up to 178 Leopard 1 A5 tanks to Ukraine, but that the number sent would depend on the refurbishments required. Germany has not used the tanks since 2003.
The new weapons deployment will come in addition to Germany’s recent announcement that it would dispatch 14 newer Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine’s fighters. The U.S. said it would supply 30 of its front-line Abrams tanks.