EU must quickly consider giving Ukraine jets, says EU parliament head
European Union countries must quickly consider providing fighter jets to Ukraine, the head of the bloc's parliament said on Thursday as she hosted President Volodymyr Zelensky, touring Europe to win more arms to fight against the Russian invasion.
Referencing the biblical fight between David and Goliath, European Parliament head, Roberta Metsola said in addressing Mr Zelensky in the chamber: "You need to win and now (EU) member states must consider quickly as the next step providing long-range systems and the jets that you need to protect your liberty."
Mr Zelensky had taken his request for fighter jets to France and Germany following his calls in the UK for more support to help his country’s struggle against Russia’s invasion.
“Europe will always be, and remain Europe as long as we are together and as long as we take care of our Europe, as we take care of the European way of life,” he said in his speech.
He concluded that “Ukraine is going to be a member of the EU” before thanking the bloc for its “principled and energetic“ support.
Mr Zelensky then held the EU flag alongside Ms Metsola after his address and the entire legislature stood in somber silence as the Ukrainian national anthem and then European anthem “Ode to Joy” were played.
He met French President Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Paris on Wednesday evening, where they pledged ongoing support to Ukraine.
It came after Mr Zelensky’s historic trip to the UK on Wednesday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visit to UK
Speaking at a joint news conference on Wednesday evening with Mr Macron and Mr Scholz, Mr Zelensky said France and Germany had potential to be “game-changers” in the battle against Russia by giving Ukraine battle tanks, fighter planes and long-range missiles.
He said there had been discussions on the supply of the jets, warning there was “very little time” to provide the weaponry.
Mr Macron said Ukraine could count on France’s support and that the country was “determined to help Ukraine to victory and the re-establishment of its legitimate rights”.
Mr Scholz also said: “The position is unchanged: Russia must not win this war.”
Whether that means the two nations may commit to supplying fighter jets remains unclear.
Starting his surprise trip in London on Wednesday, Mr Zelensky used a rousing speech to Parliament to urge the UK and Western allies to provide “wings for freedom”.
Rishi Sunak said “nothing is off the table” when it comes to the question of providing fighter aircraft to Ukraine.
The Prime Minister said sending warplanes is “part of the conversation” about aid to Kyiv.
Mr Zelensky warned that without supplies, including jets, ammunition and long-range missiles, there is a risk of “stagnation” in the conflict.
Downing Street confirmed that Mr Sunak has asked Defence Secretary Ben Wallace to investigate what jets the UK could potentially give.
The UK also announced that it will start training Ukrainian air force pilots as part of a long-term strategy to safeguard Kyiv’s future.
It marked a change in approach, with No 10 previously arguing that it would take too long to train pilots to fly Western fighter planes to have an impact on the war in eastern Europe.
The Russian Embassy in London warned the UK against supplying warplanes, saying Britain would bear responsibility “for another twist of escalation and the ensuing military-political consequences for the European continent and the entire world”.
The United States and other Nato allies have been wary of becoming more involved in the conflict for fear of provoking the Kremlin.
Mr Zelensky’s trip to the UK included talks with Mr Sunak in Downing Street, a meeting with the King at Buckingham Palace, and a visit to Ukrainian armed forces in Dorset where they are being trained to use Challenger 2 tanks.
It is only his second trip abroad since Moscow’s forces launched their full-scale invasion nearly a year ago.