On the 8th of February 2023, the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, made a surprise visit. President Zelensky was welcomed by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak from a military transport plane used by the British Royal Air Force (RAF) at Stansted airport, London. Impact’s Mike Wong reports.
President Zelensky’s visit included giving his historic speech at Westminster Hall to the members of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. He also went to Buckingham Palace, to visit King Charles III, King of the United Kingdom and Head of the Commonwealth.
President Zelensky’s visit also showed rare moments of unity between both the Conservative and Labour Party, and other parties within the House of Commons, such as the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Sir Ed Davey, who asked about potential UK condemnation of the Russian Wagner mercenary group.
The Prime Minister announced that Britain will begin training Ukranian fighter pilots
At the same time, Zelensky’s trip to the UK was important as Ukraine are gearing up in preparation for a Russian counteroffensive in the spring. Ukraine’s army are currently in a dire state, as many Ukrainian troops were using outdated and old equipment. Ukraine should soon be receiving fresh Western supplied equipment (such as a squadron of Challenger 2 tanks) to reinforce the frontline.
The Ukrainian army was also running out of military supplies to defeat the Russian army, whilst in contrast, the Russian army had moboilised hundreds of thousands of men to the frontlines in Ukraine. Zelensky also visited the UK to ease doubts and hesitancy on sending fighter jets to Ukraine, and the Prime Minister announced that Britain will begin training Ukranian fighter pilots.
In his speech, in summary, President Zelensky called on the West (the UK in this case) to supply fighter jets to Ukraine, as well as more general military assistance, and urged more sanctions to be imposed. President Zelensky also praised the UK’s response to the war in Ukraine, and thanked the British Royal Family, the British government and the British people for standing with Ukraine and supporting them to the end. President Zelensky also presented the helmet of one of Ukraine’s successful military pilots to Lindsay Hoyle, speaker of the UK’s House of Commons.
“We’ve all been worried about you and thinking about your country for so long, I can’t tell you”
Zelensky also visited Ukrainian troops training on British territory and during Zelensky’s visit to Buckingham palace. King Charles III told Zelensky, “We’ve all been worried about you and thinking about your country for so long, I can’t tell you”.
Zelensky’s visit to the UK ended with a press conference, where in a small touching moment, he hugged a BBC reporter, veering off security protocol. Rishi Sunak also denied that the UK was hesitant to send fighter jets to Ukraine, and it is stated that the first British Challenger Tanks would be in use by the Ukrainian military in “a matter of weeks”, and said that discussions were underway to discuss sending fighter aircraft to Ukraine. This drew comments from the Russian Embassy in the UK, warning the UK not to send fighter jets.
Whilst Sunak has said that “nothing is off the table” in regards to sending the aircraft, it appears that discussions are ongoing between both the Ukrainian and British Defense Ministries on the question of Ukraine receiving fighter aircraft from Britain, and whether they would be totally effective in defeating the Russian military in Ukraine.
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