Ukraine’s Zelenskyy visits London on rare foreign trip

Ukraine’s Zelenskyy visits London on rare foreign trip

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will visit London on Wednesday in only his second known foreign trip since Russia invaded a year ago.

Mr Zelenskyy will meet UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and address Parliament, before visiting Ukrainian troops being trained in Britain.

Britain will offer to expand that training programme to cover Ukrainian marines and fighter jet pilots, Downing Street said.

It said this would “ensure pilots are able to fly sophisticated Nato-standard fighter jets in the future”, as western allies weigh whether to offer such aircraft.

Ukraine will be offered “longer-range capabilities” intended to foil Russian attacks on infrastructure, Mr Sunak’s office said, without explaining further.

The UK is also expected to announce further sanctions on Russia, including on associates of President Vladimir Putin and companies benefitting from the Russian war effort.

Mr Zelenskyy visited the US in December, and there has been speculation he will visit Brussels this week.

His visit comes amid relentless winter battles with Russia, and expectations that Moscow will launch a new offensive as the war enters its second year.

“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,” Mr Sunak said.

“Since 2014, the UK has provided vital training to Ukrainian forces, allowing them to defend their country, protect their sovereignty and fight for their territory.

“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.”

Mr Sunak, who made his first trip to Kyiv as Prime Minister in November, announced last month that Ukraine would be offered a company of British Challenger 2 battle tanks.

Ukrainian troops arrived in the UK last week to begin training on the tanks, as part of a wider programme in Britain expected to involve 20,000 soldiers this year.

Germany and the US followed Britain’s move by offering their own main battle tanks. Berlin’s decision to release the Leopard 2 model paves the way for other European allies to send their German-made tanks.

However, Ukrainian diplomats have been pushing western allies to go further by sending modern fighter jets, a prospect Nato has previously baulked at.

Britain said the training on Nato fighter jets was a “long-term capability investment” and did not say when or whether any planes would be provided.

The UK will work with allies to “co-ordinate collective support to meet Ukraine’s defensive needs”, Downing Street said.

Reports leaked earlier that Mr Zelenskyy could soon visit Brussels, where a summit of EU leaders is taking place this week. His London trip remained under wraps until Wednesday.

He addressed the UK Parliament by video link last year, invoking William Shakespeare and Winston Churchill in one of several carefully tailored addresses to national legislatures.

Mr Zelenskyy formed an especially close bond with former prime minister Boris Johnson, but has also expressed gratitude for Mr Sunak’s support.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy through the years — in pictures

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Would you like to receive notifications on latest updates? No Yes