Zelensky visits UK for talks with Sunak and the King
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is making his first visit to the UK since the Russian invasion of his country, with Rishi Sunak promising extra military aid.
The Ukrainian leader will have an audience with the King and address Parliament during the trip – only his second overseas visit since Vladimir Putin’s forces invaded his country almost a year ago.
The Prime Minister announced plans to train Ukrainian pilots, paving the way for them eventually being able to fly sophisticated Nato-standard jets, a key request from Mr Zelensky.
Welcome to the UK, President @ZelenskyyUa.
🇬🇧🇺🇦 #SlavaUkraini pic.twitter.com/rMoBTC3ken
— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) February 8, 2023
The Prime Minister embraced Mr Zelensky as he arrived at Stansted Airport on just his second overseas visit since the war broke out – the president travelled to Washington in December last year.
Mr Zelensky was wearing his usual outfit of military fatigues as he arrived in Downing Street for talks in No 10 with Mr Sunak.
Mr Sunak said: “President Zelensky’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.
“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.
“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.”
Mr Zelensky thanked the UK for its “big support from the first days of full-scale invasion” as he met Mr Sunak in Downing Street.
Ahead of Mr Zelensky’s address in Parliament, Mr Sunak and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer staged a show of unity at Prime Minister’s Questions, with both speaking in support of the UK’s support for Ukraine.
Sir Keir said “Putin and all his cronies must stand at the Hague and face justice” when the war is over.
Mr Sunak said he had discussed the situation with Mr Zelensky and “I’m hopeful we will see the first indictments very shortly” at the International Criminal Court.
The expansion of the UK’s training programme to include jet fighter pilots is significant as Mr Zelensky has been urging Western nations to supply planes.
The UK has so far refused, arguing that the RAF’s F-35 and Typhoon jets take too long for pilots to train on.
But the announcement by No 10 signals a shift for the future, and officials said that “as part of that long-term capability investment” the UK will work with Ukraine and international allies “to co-ordinate collective support to meet Ukraine’s defensive needs”.
Ukrainian troops are already being trained in the use of Challenger 2 tanks, which are expected to be sent to the country next month.
Mr Sunak will offer longer-range firepower to help counter Russia’s ability to strike at Ukraine’s towns and energy facilities.
The UK also announced a fresh package of sanctions on Russian firms and allies of Mr Putin to coincide with Mr Zelensky’s surprise visit.
The House of Commons is honoured to be hosting President Zelensky today. The Leader @PennyMordaunt will attend his speech this afternoon.
This is an historic moment and a powerful symbol of the enduring friendship and alliance between the UK and Ukraine.
Slava Ukraini 🇺🇦
— Leader of the House of Commons (@CommonsLeader) February 8, 2023
CST, a manufacturer of Russian drones and RT-Komplekt, which produces parts for helicopters used in the war against Ukraine, are among the entities sanctioned.
Five individuals linked to Mr Putin’s luxury residences, including presidential commissioner for entrepreneurs’ rights Boris Titov and Aerostart owner Viktor Myachin, were also hit with travel bans and asset freezes.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said: “These new sanctions accelerate the economic pressure on Putin – undermining his war machine to help Ukraine prevail.
“I am determined, consistent with our laws, that Russia will have no access to the assets we have frozen until it ends, once and for all, its threats to Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty and integrity.”