(Reuters) – Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy visited Britain on Wednesday to raise aid, winning a promise of training for Ukrainian pilots on advanced fighters of the Western military alliance North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a major symbolic step in Western military support.
London was his first stop on only his second foreign trip since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 last year. A European Union diplomat said Zelenskiy would travel Thursday to Brussels, where the EU is holding a summit.
“The UK was one of the first to help Ukraine. And today I am in London to personally thank the British people for their support and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for his leadership,” Zelenskiy posted on social media, with a photo of him and Sunak at Stansted airport.
Zelenskiy will also meet with King Charles 3rd, address Parliament, and visit Ukrainian troops training in the UK.
“President Zelenskiy’s visit to the UK is a testament to his country’s courage, determination and struggle, and a testament to the indestructible friendship between our two countries,” Sunak said in a statement.
Sunak’s cabinet announced additional sanctions on Russia, as well as plans to accelerate the supply of military equipment to Kiev. For the first time, Ukraine’s Air Force and Marines will be included in the British training program.
“The training will ensure that pilots will be able to fly sophisticated standard-Otan fighters in the future,” he said.
This seemed to signal a notable shift in Western support, as countries have so far refrained from providing fighters or other weapons capable of hitting Russia deeply.
The statement gave no time frame for training, and British officials said that teaching pilots to use British jets takes years. But the first such commitment signals endorsement of a long-term security relationship with Kiev and could pave the way for allies to send planes.
Last month, the UK was the first Western country to promise advanced war tanks to Kiev. It offered only 14, but within two weeks the United States and European allies promised several, ending months of debate.
Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who has come under harsh criticism for allegedly slow approval of tank deliveries, said arms supplies should be confidentially coordinated rather than announced by individual countries.
“What undermines our unity is a public competition to outdo each other,” he told the lower house of parliament, according to a manuscript of his speech.
Sunak says UK wants decisive military victory in Ukraine
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Wednesday that his government wants to see a decisive military victory on the battlefield in Ukraine this year.
“Our goal remains to secure Ukrainian victory in this conflict,” Sunak told Parliament.
“We will continue to support Ukraine to ensure a decisive military victory on the battlefield this year.”
*** Translated by the DEFCONPress FYI team ***