Zelensky Europe visit: what is the reaction in Russia - what has Kremlin said about Ukrainian leader’s tour?

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has made a trip to the UK and other European countries as he continues to make a plea for fighter jets

Vladimir Putin has responded to Volodymyr Zelensky’s trip to Europe, and has warned against Nato allies responding to his plea for fighter jets.

Zelensky made the trip from Ukraine to the UK on 8 February, before travelling to Brussels to visit EU lawmakers at the European Parliament. The European tour marks the first time he has visited the countries since war broke out in Ukraine almost one year ago.

One of the main aims of his trip to Ukraine’s European allies is to continue his pleas for fighter jets being sent to the fight. During an address in Westminster Hall, Zelensky said: “I appeal to you and the world with simple and yet most important words, combat aircraft for Ukraine. Wings for freedom.”

His aim of securing fighter jets for Ukraine has continued during his visit. Following a meeting with EU lawmakers, he told reporters: "We have to enhance the dynamics of our cooperation, we have to do it faster than the aggressor.”

Zelensky’s quest for jets has raised eyebrows in Russia however. The Kremlin has sent a stern warning to the West over the issue.

What did Russia say about fighter jets in Ukraine?

The Russian Embassy in the UK has warned about a possible “escalation” if Nato allies do send fighter jets to Ukraine. It said that the "bloodshed, next round of escalation, and subsequent military and political ramifications for the European continent and the entire globe" would be “on London’s conscience”.

This was echoed by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who said: "The line between indirect and direct involvement is gradually disappearing. One can only express regret in this regard, and say that such actions ... lead to an escalation of tension, prolong the conflict and make the conflict more and more painful for Ukraine.”

Will Nato allies send fighter jets to Ukraine?

The situation has been pushed by Zelensky as his country continues the fight against Russia, however there has been concern over the line being crossed by Nato allies. Following the EU meeting with Zelensky, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte raised the issue of Article 5 of the Nato charter and whether the supply of fighter jets to Ukraine would contradict this.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that considerations had to be made over Article 5 before jet s were sent to Ukraine. (Credit: Getty Images)Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that considerations had to be made over Article 5 before jet s were sent to Ukraine. (Credit: Getty Images)
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that considerations had to be made over Article 5 before jet s were sent to Ukraine. (Credit: Getty Images)

He told reporters: “You have to make absolutely sure that you are not getting into an Article 5 direct confrontation between Nato and Russia. All these things have to be assessed and as soon as conclusions have been reached you can bring them to the outside world.”

Article 5 states that if a Nato ally is attacked, then the attack is considered to be against all allied nations. Therefore, if Nato supplies fighter jets to Ukraine and they are used to hit targets in Russia, this could be seen as Nato intervening in the war and dragging allied countries, such as the UK, France and Germany, into direct conflict.

It is believed that any possible transfer of fighter jets to Ukraine may come with the caveat that they are not used to strike Russian targets and are only used within Ukraine. However, the perceived borders of Ukraine have shifted on the Russian side since the beginning of the war, with annexations of regions such as Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.

Although the annexation has not been internationally recognised, if Ukraine forces were to use the jets in these regions it may be seen from the Russian point of view that they are attacking Russian soil. Therein lies the problem for Western leaders who are under the cosh of Zelensky’s plea for jets at the same time as Russia’s vow of escalation.