Zelensky hosted by King Charles III, meets with prime minister over military help

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (R) met with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak Wednesday, when he also addressed the British Parliament. Photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (R) met with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak Wednesday, when he also addressed the British Parliament. Photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 8 (UPI) -- During a surprise visit to Britain Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Buckingham Palace, where he was hosted by King Charles III.

Zelensky also addressed Parliament during the visit, where he drew praise from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.


The journey marked Zelensky's second trip outside of Ukraine since the war began last year. He thanked Britain for standing with Kyiv during his address, also calling for further military help to combat the ongoing Russian invasion.

"We've all been worried about you and thinking about your country for so long, I can't tell you," the king told Zelensky ahead of a half-hour discussion inside Buckingham Palace.


Zelensky jokingly referred to the king's previous role as a military pilot in the Royal Air Force while at the same time expressing Ukraine's desire to obtain British jets.

"The king is an Air Force pilot, and in Ukraine every Air Force pilot is a king," Zelensky said ahead of his parliamentary address.

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Zelensky received a warm welcome from Sunak and other British politicians.

"It's a privilege to stand here with you today, and to have you here in the United Kingdom," Sunak said Wednesday.

"Now your visit here today underlines our two countries' close and enduring friendship -- we will always be by your side, our staunch and unwavering friends.

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"We both know the people of Ukraine's incredible strength and inspiring bravery will ultimately defeat tyranny. That is why we are training and arming them with the equipment they need to push back Russian forces," Sunak said.

Sunak also expressed an openness to extend further military assistance to Ukraine, both in terms of equipment and training.

"On behalf of our tank command who wish to restore our Ukrainian borders, on behalf of our conscripts who have been trainees now, including here in Britain -- thank you, Britain -- and who will be then deployed to the front line skilled, equipped and eager to win," Zelensky said before addressing the joint session of British Parliament at Westminster Hall.


He also thanked former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for his early support, noting that "London has stood with Kyiv since day one."

"Boris, you got others united when it seemed absolutely, absolutely impossible. Thank you. You, all of you, you all showed your great character back then, strong British character, you didn't compromise Ukraine and hence you didn't compromise your ideals and thus you didn't compromise the spirit of this great alliance. Thank you very much."

Zelensky's trip came as Britain is increasing its supply of offensive weaponry, including tanks, and is preparing to train Ukrainian pilots in sophisticated NATO-standard fighter aircraft.

Sunak also offered Britain's backing for Zelensky's plans to work toward a ''just and lasting peace'' for Ukraine.

Sunak's offer included more training for Ukrainian forces, expanding it to fighter jet pilots to ensure Ukraine can defend its skies well into the future, the British government said.

''The training will ensure pilots are able to fly sophisticated NATO-standard fighter jets in the future. As part of that long-term capability investment, the U.K. will work with Ukraine and international allies to coordinate collective support to meet Ukraine's defensive needs,'' Sunak's office said in a statement.


Britain also offered to immediately begin a training program for Ukrainian marines.

The training will be in addition to the recruit training program already running in Britain, which has seen 10,000 Ukrainian troops brought to battle readiness in the last six months, and which will upskill a further 20,000 Ukrainian soldiers this year.

Britain will continue to work with the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the international community to scale up the program in 2023.

Ukrainian troops arrived in Britain last week to begin training to command Challenger 2 tanks, following Sunak's decision last month to send 14 of the main battle tanks to Ukraine.

Sunak also offered to provide Ukraine with longer-range capabilities aimed at disrupting Russia's ability to continually target Ukraine's civilian and critical national infrastructure and help relieve pressure on Ukraine's frontlines.

Zelensky and his officials also met with defense and security chiefs, including the Chief of Defense Staff and Chief of the Air Staff, to discuss the details of the training program.

The surprise visit came as Zelensky has also been mulling a trip to meet with EU leaders in Brussels.

Leaders are set to hold a summit of the European Council beginning Thursday but following security concerns brought up by leaked plans for Zelensky to visit, European Council presidential spokesman Barney Leyts tweeted Monday that EU Council President Charles Michel had invited Zelensky to a ''future'' summit of the council without sharing a specific date.


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