Ukraine's Zelenskiy visits London seeking more arms against Russia


  • World
  • Wednesday, 08 Feb 2023

FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy attends a joint news briefing with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine January 24, 2023. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

LONDON (Reuters) -Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is travelling to London to meet Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and address parliament on Wednesday at a time when Kyiv is urging the West to deliver more weapons to help it drive Russian forces out.

Zelenskiy will arrive in London for only his second foreign visit since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, after Sunak pledged to expand the training of Ukrainian troops to include fighter jet pilots and marines.

Britain said the training would ensure Ukrainian pilots were able to fly "sophisticated NATO-standard fighter jets in the future".

Western countries have scaled up their pledges of military support for Ukraine since the start of the new year, but have so far refused to deliver the fighter jets Kyiv has asked for.

"President Zelenskiy's visit to the UK is a testament to his country's courage, determination and fight, and a testament to the unbreakable friendship between our two countries," Sunak said in a statement.

"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."

Britain will also set out further sanctions later on Wednesday to target those who have helped Russian President Vladimir Putin "build his personal wealth, and companies who are profiting from the Kremlin’s war machine", the statement said.

Zelenskiy, who had close ties with ex-prime minister Boris Johnson, visits Britain at a time when Russia is bringing tens of thousands of recently mobilised troops to the battlefield to try to break through Ukrainian defences in eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine's allies have promised hundreds of tanks and armoured vehicles to help Kyiv resist the assault and recapture territory, but have said it will take time to train Ukrainian forces to use them effectively.

Since Johnson resigned last year, Sunak has pledged to continue to support Ukraine, visiting Kyiv in November to tell the Ukrainian leader: "We are with you all the way."

In London, he is expected to tell Zelenskiy he will accelerate the delivery of military equipment to Ukraine.

Britain has trained 10,000 Ukrainian troops brought to battle readiness in the last six months and will upskill a further 20,000 soldiers this year, the government said.

Last week, Ukrainian troops arrived in Britain to learn how to command Challenger 2 tanks and Sunak will offer to provide Ukraine with longer range capabilities, the statement said.

London has so far refused to deliver fighter jets, saying it was not "the right approach" for now. But defence minister Ben Wallace has suggested that stance could change.

A new U.S. package of weapons is expected to include longer-range rockets, which would give Ukraine the ability to hit Russian supply lines in all of the territory it occupies in Ukraine's mainland and parts of the Crimea Peninsula.

(Reporting by Muvija M and Elizabeth Piper; editing by William James, Kate Holton, Philippa Fletcher)

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