British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy meet Ukrainian troops being trained to command Challenger 2 tanks during his first visit to the UK since the Russian invasion of Ukraine at a military facility in Lulworth, Dorset, Britain, Wednesday on Wednesday.
KYIV/LONDON--Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy travelled to two European capitals on Wednesday in search of better aerial firepower to turn the war against Russia, winning a British pledge to train Ukrainian pilots on advanced NATO fighter jets.
On just his second trip abroad since the war began a year ago, Zelenskiy met British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and King Charles in London before flying to France.
In Paris, the Ukrainian president met French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Both vowed continued support for Ukraine ahead of a discussion on Wednesday evening about Kyiv's wartime needs.
"We have very little time. I'm talking now about the weapons needed for peace and to stop the war started by Russia," Zelenskiy said. "France and Germany have the potential to be game changers and that's how I see our talks today. The sooner we get heavy long range weapons and our pilots get modern planes ... the quicker this Russian aggression will end."
In a speech to British lawmakers, Zelenskiy similarly stressed his plea for combat aircraft, which he referred to as "wings for freedom". Western countries have so far stopped short of providing planes or weapons that can strike deep inside Russia.
At a joint news conference with Zelenskiy later in the day, Sunak said "nothing is off the table" when it comes to supplying Ukraine with jets to fight Russia. "The first step in being able to provide advanced aircrafts is to have soldiers or aviators that are capable of using them. That is a process that takes some time. We've started that process today," Sunak said.
Russia's embassy to Britain warned London against sending fighter jets to Ukraine, saying such a move would have ramifications for the entire world, TASS news agency reported.
Britain announced plans to expand a programme training Ukraine's military to ensure its pilots could fly sophisticated jets of NATO military alliance standard. The announcement gave no timeframe and did not commit to provide Kyiv with British jets. But it signalled a shift that could pave the way for other nations to send planes.
Zelenskiy's tour of Europe, which will also include a European Union summit in Brussels on Thursday, follows a surprise visit to Washington in December.
Britain announced the addition of new names to its Russia sanctions blacklist, as well as plans for more military equipment for Kyiv, including unspecified longer range weapons. As Zelenskiy wrapped up his London speech, air raid sirens rang out in Ukraine's capital Kyiv. An all-clear later sounded.