Ukrainian President Zelenskyy visits Britain to meet with leaders, address Parliament

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiyy walks after arrival with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at an airport, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Stansted, Britain, February 8, 2023. [Courtesy of Reuters]

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited Britain on Wednesday to meet with officials there as he made his second confirmed trip outside of Ukraine since Russia launched an invasion of the country nearly one year ago.

Zelenskyy’s schedule included addressing Britain’s parliament and visiting Ukrainian troops who are training with British forces. Buckingham Palace said Zelenskyy will visit King Charles at his royal residence in London.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also announced that Britain would train Ukrainian pilots on “NATO-standard fighter jets.” He also said Britain would accelerate its contributions of military equipment to Ukraine.

“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.”

Britain has already been training Ukrainian troops, including on the use of British Challenger 2 tanks that Britain is providing in response to Ukraine’s calls for heavier equipment to counter Russian forces.

Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands said Tuesday they are planning to send at least 100 older, refurbished Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine.

The Leopard 1 tanks were manufactured from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s and, once made battle-ready again, won't reach Kyiv's fighters until the summer months. But the defense ministers of Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands said in a statement that the additional weaponry would "significantly enhance Ukraine's military potential for the restoration of their violated territorial integrity."

The German Defense Ministry said Berlin authorities have approved the export of up to 178 Leopard 1 A5 tanks to Ukraine, but said the actual number sent would depend on the refurbishments required. Germany hasn't used the tanks since 2003.

The new weapons deployment is in addition to Germany's recent announcement that it would dispatch 14 newer Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine's fighters. The United States said it would supply 30 of its front-line Abrams tanks.

Ukrainian officials have been saying for days they expect Russian forces to make new attacks in eastern and southern Ukraine to coincide with the first anniversary of their invasion on February 24, although Western analysts have expressed skepticism about Russia's ability to carry out a large new offensive.

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