Ukrainian President Zelenskyy visits UK; meets PM Rishi Sunak

9 February, 2023 | Vaishali Sharma

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited the United Kingdom on Wednesday and met with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited the United Kingdom on Wednesday and met with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. He addressed the UK Parliament and met with King Charles III at Buckingham Palace.

According to a statement released by Ukraine’s President’s website, following his meeting with Rishi Sunak, Zelenskyy stated that he heard the UK Prime Minister’s willingness to provide fighter jets. Zelenskyy’s visit to the UK is his first since Russia launched an offensive in Ukraine.

According to a statement released by the Ukrainian President’s office, Zelenskyy stated that Ukraine requires an air defence system as it continues to fight hundreds of Iranian drones and various missiles, including ballistic missiles, that have hit the power grid and civilian facilities.

“Today, I heard the Prime Minister’s willingness to provide us with aircraft. The first step Mr. Prime Minister officially saiis that we can start training our pilots. At the same time, he noted that not everything in this matter depends on the will of the UK,” Zelenskyy said.

Zelenskyy called long-range weapons “a priority” and expressed happiness that the UK heard Ukraine’s needs. He further said, “I would really like other countries to hear us as well. This allows us to push the enemy back and ensure life even in the cities we have de-occupied. So that people could just live there.”

Rishi Sunak emphasized that UK is aware of Ukraine’s needs and is one of the leaders in providing assistance. He reminded that the Challenger tanks will be at the front in a few weeks. He stated that UK is doing everything to prepare the Ukrainian military for the use of Challenger tanks “as soon as possible.”

“We are ready to provide everything, but first we need pilots who are ready to operate such sophisticated weapons. Because when it comes to brand-new fighter jets, it takes three years to train pilots. Ukraine already has fighter pilots, but they still need to be trained. This is what we discussed with Mr. President today,” Rishi Sunak said.

Sunak in the press release said that 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.” He said that the UK has provided training to Ukrainian forces since 2014 and allowed them to defend their country and protect their sovereignty.

He further said, “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.”

During his visit, Zelenskyy also addressed both houses of the UK Parliament. In his speech, he said that “freedom will win and Russia will lose,” according to the statement released by Ukrainian President’s office.

Zelenskyy in his address said, “We know freedom will win. We know Russia will lose. We know the Victory will change the world! And this will be a change that the world has long needed.”
He further said, “The United Kingdom is marching with us towards the most important victory of our lifetime. It will be a victory over the very idea of the war.”

Zelenskyy presented the speaker of the House of Commons with a Ukrainian air force helmet and the writing on the helmet reads, “We have freedom. Give us wings to protect it.”

“I trust this symbol will help us form our next coalition, the coalition of the planes. I appeal to you and the world with simple and yet most important words: Combat aircrafts – for Ukraine! Wings – for freedom,” Zelenskyy said.

Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak in a tweet stated, “Volodymyr, it was a privilege to have you here in the United Kingdom today. We know Ukraine will ultimately defeat tyranny, and the UK will continue to train and arm Ukrainian forces with the equipment they need. We will always be your staunch and unwavering friends.”