Zelensky meets Rishi Sunak in surprise visit as UK promises extra military aid for Ukraine
The Ukrainian President is pressing European leaders for more military aid
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The UK will provide Ukraine with air defence missiles and attack drones, Downing Street has announced today.
The Ukrainian President said he was meeting “my friend Rishi” to conduct “substantive negotiations” as he presses European leaders for more military aid amid the Russian invasion.
No 10 confirmed that Britain will send hundreds of air defence missiles and further unmanned aerial systems to the war-torn country. Zelensky said the two leaders had also discussed western fighter jets and he anticipated “very important decisions” to be made soon.
Zelensky’s UK visit follows meetings in Paris, Berlin and Rome, and comes three months after his first trip to London since the start of the war in Ukraine. That occasion saw the Ukrainian leader attend an audience with King Charles and address Parliament in February.
In a tweet ahead of his visit on Monday (15 May), Zelensky said: “Today – London. The UK is a leader when it comes to expanding our capabilities on the ground and in the air. This cooperation will continue today. I will meet my friend Rishi. We will conduct substantive negotiations face-to-face and in delegations.”
It also comes after Sunak and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace announced that the UK government had agreed to authorise the donation of long-range cruise missiles following continued Russian attacks - a move that was welcomed by Zelensky as a “significant enhancement” of Ukraine’s efforts in the war.
At the start of the meeting on Monday, Zelensky thanked the UK government, the King and the British people for their support. He said: “We are thankful from all our hearts, from Ukrainians, from our soldiers, we are thankful.”
Following the meeting, the president said the two countries were “real partners”, with Sunak knowing details of developments on the battlefield. He added: “We want to create this jets coalition and I’m very positive with it. We spoke about it and I see that in the closest time you will hear some, I think very important decisions but we have to work a little bit more on it.”
Zelensky said his talks with the Prime Minister would cover “very important issues, urgent support for Ukraine” and the crisis was a matter of “security not only for Ukraine, it is important for all of Europe”.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister stressed that the provision of warplanes was “not a straightforward thing” but said the UK was committed to training Ukrainian pilots using Nato-standard aircraft.
No 10 said an elementary flying phase for cohorts of Ukrainian pilots will begin this summer, going hand in hand with British efforts to work with other countries on providing F16 jets.
Sunak said: “This is a crucial moment in Ukraine’s resistance to a terrible war of aggression they did not choose or provoke. They need the sustained support of the international community to defend against the barrage of unrelenting and indiscriminate attacks that have been their daily reality for over a year. We must not let them down.
“The frontlines of (Vladimir) Putin’s war of aggression may be in Ukraine but the fault lines stretch all over the world. It is in all our interest to ensure Ukraine succeeds and Putin’s barbarism is not rewarded.
“That is why the UK is sustaining our support to Ukraine – from tanks to training, ammunition to armoured vehicles. And this message of solidarity will ring loud in all my meetings with fellow world leaders in the days ahead. And this message of solidarity will ring loud in all my meetings with fellow world leaders in the days ahead.”
The latest package of military assistance includes hundreds of air defence missiles and further unmanned aerial systems including long-range attack drones with a range of more than 200 kilometres (124 miles), which will be delivered over the coming months. The UK has also recently promised long-range Storm Shadow cruise missiles to Kyiv after continued Russian attacks.
The meeting between the two leaders comes at the start of a week of intense diplomatic activity on the Ukraine crisis, with Sunak set to attend a Council of Europe summit in Iceland and Zelensky will join virtually, ahead of a visit to Hiroshima in Japan later this week for a G7 gathering.