Zelensky visits London in rare trip outside Ukraine, pushes for allies to send fighter jets

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
Greg Nash
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is seen as Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) makes a statement during a photo op following their meeting at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, December 21, 2022.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made a surprise visit to London on Wednesday to address the United Kingdom’s Parliament, telling British lawmakers and allies that his country will need more advanced weapons, including modern fighter jets, to fend off Russian forces.

Zelensky made a plea to the crowded British group packed inside the 900-year-old Westminster Hall, asking for not just weapons but also more sanctions against supporters of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“I’m not just speaking about weapons. We’ve proved together that the world truly helps those who are brave in defending freedom,” the Ukrainian leader said, but “evil is still around today and the battle continues.”

Zelensky noted King Charles III once trained as a jet pilot, using it to segue into an ask for modern fighter jets.

“Provide us with modern planes to empower and protect pilots who will be protecting us,” Zelensky said.

Kyiv has been pushing since the war began to secure modern fighter jets from the U.S. and NATO allies to replace its aging fleet.

As Zelensky touched down in England on a Royal Air Force plane, the U.K. announced a new program to train Ukrainian pilots on modern fighter jets.

Ukrainians have also just completed a similar program to train on Britain’s Challenger 2 main battle tanks, which the country announced last month for Ukraine.

England is one of the largest backers of Kyiv and has provided about $2.5 billion for the country since the war began last February.

The U.K. on Wednesday also slapped a round of new sanctions against six entities with ties to Russia’s military.

The government is also extending an offer to provide longer-range weapons equipment for Kyiv, which Ukraine has also asked for to strike at Russian forces in occupied territory.

During his visit, Zelensky will meet with King Charles III, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the nation’s military chiefs.

Sunak on Wednesday said “President Zelenskyy’s visit to the UK is a testament to his country’s courage, determination and fight, and a testament to the unbreakable friendship between our two countries.”

“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,” Sunak said in a statement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Tags fighter jets King Charles London Parliament Rishi Sunak Russia Ukraine United Kingdom Voldymyr Zelensky. Volodymyr Zelensky war in ukraine

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