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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.