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Zelenskyy Visits UK, Asks for Weapons  02/08 06:13

   

   LONDON (AP) -- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a rare trip out 
of his country Wednesday, daring to visit Britain in a bid for more advanced 
weapons as Kyiv braces for an expected Russian offensive and hatches its own 
plans to retake land held by Moscow's forces.

   Zelenskyy arrived on a Royal Air Force plane at London Stansted airport 
north of the U.K. capital. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak greeted him on the 
tarmac, tweeting a photo of him embracing the Ukrainian leader.

   "The United Kingdom was one of the first to come to Ukraine's aid. And today 
I'm in London to personally thank the British people for their support," 
Zelenskyy said on Instagram.

   A large convoy of vehicles left the airport and headed straight to Downing 
Street in central London. Both leaders posed briefly for photos in front of the 
famous black door that leads into the U.K. prime minister's residence.

   Staff inside 10 Downing St. could be heard applauding as the Ukrainian 
leader entered.

   At the start of the leaders' meeting, Zelenskyy thanked Britain for its "big 
support from the first days of full-scale invasion."

   Zelenskyy will later address Parliament. It's his first trip to the U.K. 
since Russia's invasion began nearly a year ago and only his second confirmed 
journey outside Ukraine during the war.

   Zelenskyy will also meet with King Charles III and U.K. military chiefs 
during his visit.

   The U.K. is one of the biggest military backers of Ukraine and has sent the 
country more than 2 billion pounds ($2.5 billion) in weapons and equipment.

   The visit comes as Sunak announced that Britain will train Ukrainian pilots 
on "NATO-standard fighter jets." Ukraine has urged its allies to send jets, 
though the U.K. says it's not practical to provide the Ukrainian military with 
British warplanes.

   More than 10,000 Ukrainian troops have also been trained at bases in the 
U.K., some on the Challenger 2 tanks that Britain is sending.

   "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," Sunak said. "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."

   Coinciding with the visit, the U.K. government announced a new round of 
sanctions against six entities that the U.K. said supplied equipment to the 
Russian military.

   CST, a manufacturer of Russian drones and parts for helicopters used against 
Ukraine, were among those sanctioned. Others targeted included five individuals 
linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin's luxury residences, including Boris 
Titov and Aerostart owner Viktor Myachin.

   Zelenskyy addressed the U.K. Parliament remotely in March, two weeks after 
the start of the invasion. He echoed World War II leader Winston Churchill's 
famous "never surrender" speech, vowing that Ukrainians "will fight till the 
end at sea, in the air. We will continue fighting for our land, whatever the 
cost."

   Before Sunak took office, Zelenskyy had formed a bond with Boris Johnson, 
who was one of Ukraine's most vocal backers while he was U.K. prime minister. 
Sunak took office in October and has pledged to maintain the U.K.'s support.

   It will be Zelenskyy's second known trip visit abroad since Russia launched 
its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. He visited the U.S. in December.

   Zelenskyy may be seeking Western pledges of more advanced weapons before 
potential spring offensives by both Russia and Ukraine.

   In Brussels, there were increasing expectations that the Ukrainian leader 
might also make his first visit to European Union institutions since the war 
began.

   Leaders from 27-nation bloc will be gathering for a summit in Brussels on 
Thursday. That would enable Zelenskyy to meet with all major leaders of the 
bloc in one day. Zelenskyy has often addressed EU summits only through video 
calls from Ukraine.

   The EU's legislature has also slated a special plenary session in Brussels 
for Thursday in the hopes that Zelenskyy will come following his trip to 
Britain.

   The London visit came as Russian forces blasted areas of eastern Ukraine 
with more artillery bombardments, Ukrainian officials said Wednesday, in what 
Kyiv authorities believe is part of a new thrust by the Kremlin's forces before 
the invasion anniversary.

   Russian forces over the past day launched major shelling attacks on areas 
near the front line in Ukraine's northeastern Kharkiv region, killing a 
74-year-old woman and wounding a 16-year-old girl in the border town of 
Vovchansk, local Gov. Oleh Syniehubov said.

   Russian forces in Ukraine are focusing their efforts on "waging a 
counteroffensive" in the country's industrial east, with the aim of taking full 
control of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions that make up the Donbas, the General 
Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said.

   Russian troops launched assaults near Bakhmut and Vuhledar, two mining towns 
in the Donetsk region that have been among Moscow's key targets, Ukrainian 
officials said.

   Seizing Bakhmut could severely disrupt Ukraine's military supply routes. It 
would also open a door for Moscow's forces to drive toward key Ukrainian 
strongholds in Donetsk.

   Ukrainian authorities say the Kremlin's goal is to complete full control of 
the Donbas, an expansive industrial area bordering Russia. That would give 
Russian President Vladimir Putin a major battlefield success after months of 
setbacks and help him rally public opinion behind the war.

   Military analysts say that after a Ukrainian counteroffensive that started 
last summer and recaptured large areas from Russia, the war has been largely 
static in recent months.

   Moscow, meanwhile, believes Ukraine is preparing its own battlefield push.

   The Russian-installed leader of the occupied Luhansk region said Wednesday 
the situation in some areas is "very difficult" because Kyiv is mustering 
forces for a counterattack.

   Leonid Pasechnik told Russian state TV that the situation is "very 
difficult" in areas around a key Russian supply route. "Unfortunately, the 
enemy is accumulating sufficient reserves there, forces to counterattack, to 
return the lost territories," he said.

   It wasn't possible to verify the claims by the two sides.

 
 
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