President Zelensky’s first UK visit since Ukraine incursion


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has met Rishi Sunak, in his first UK visit since Russia’s invasion.

He received a red carpet welcome before holding talks with the British prime minister in Downing Street, ahead of an audience with King Charles and a speech to Parliament.

It comes as UK training of Ukrainian forces is set to be expanded to cover fighter jet pilots and marines.

The UK has also announced a fresh round of sanctions targeting Russia.

The latest sanctions target IT companies, as well as manufacturers of military equipment such as drones and helicopter parts.

Plans have been announced to train Ukrainian pilots to fly Nato-standard fighter jets in the future, a key request from Ukraine.

Western countries have been considering how to bolster support for Ukraine, with the country braced for a renewed Russian offensive later this month.

The expansion of the UK’s training programme signals a shift, after the UK said it was “not practical” for it to send its aircraft to Ukraine.

Last week, Mr Sunak’s spokesman told reporters that British military jets were “extremely sophisticated and take months to learn how to fly”.

The UK has already announced plans to send Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine, with Ukrainian troops receiving training in how to operate them.

No 10 said Mr Sunak would be offering to provide Ukraine with “longer range capabilities” to disrupt Russia’s ability to target Ukraine’s critical national infrastructure.

It added that British training would be scaled up this year, with a further 20,000 Ukrainian soldiers set to be trained.

Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour Party, said Ukraine must have the UK’s “full support” in its fight against Russian forces.

At Prime Minister’s Questions in Parliament, he welcomed government announcements on further training for Ukrainian troops.

During a largely consensual edition of the weekly scrutiny session, Mr Sunak said the UK would support Ukraine to achieve a “decisive military victory on the battlefield this year”.

President Zelensky’s surprise visit to London marks the second time he has left the country since Russia’s invasion in February last year.

He made a trip to the United States in December, and met Polish President Andrzej Duda for talks on his return home.

During his trip to Washington DC, he made an address to the US Congress, where he received several standing ovations and said Ukraine would “never surrender”.

President Joe Biden also announced more support for Ukraine, including a Patriot missile defence system.

President Zelensky addressed MPs in March last year, speaking virtually from Kyiv, the first time a foreign leader addressed MPs in the Commons chamber.

The president’s visit to the UK comes ahead of a much-rumoured trip to Brussels. He’s expected to address the European Parliament on Thursday before attending a summit of EU leaders.

The news leaked out earlier this week, leading to concerns the trip could be pulled because of security concerns.

What support has the UK given Ukraine?
Since Russia invaded in February last year, the UK has spent £2.3bn on military assistance, making the country the second biggest donor behind the US. The government has said it plans to match this spending again this year.

The UK has also imposed a series of financial sanctions on Russia and taken over 100,000 Ukrainian refugees.

Military equipment provided so far includes:

  • Several air defence systems, including Starstreak, designed to bring down low-flying aircraft at short range.
  • Challenger 2 tanks
  • Artillery including 30 AS90 self propelled artillery guns
  • Hundreds of thousands of rounds of 155mm ammo
  • M270 multiple-launch rocket systems with M31A1 precision munitions
  • Next-generation light anti-tank weapons, or Nlaw
  • Maritime Brimstone missiles
  • Armoured vehicles, including Mastiff patrol vehicles
  • Heavy lift unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems to provide logistical support to isolated force
  • Electronic warfare equipment

    source: bbc