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War in Ukraine, day 350 | On a surprise visit to London, Zelensky asks his allies for planes



(London) On a surprise visit to London, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday urged his still reluctant allies to go further in their support by providing fighter jets to Kyiv to repel Russia.

A few days before the first anniversary of the invasion launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 24, 2022, Ukraine is worried that the tanks recently promised by the West will arrive too late in the face of the recent successes of the Russian army in the Donbass, in eastern Ukraine, and fears a major offensive in the coming weeks.

Expected Wednesday evening in Paris where he must meet the French leaders Emmanuel Macron and German Olaf Scholz, then Thursday in Brussels for a summit of the European Union, Volodymyr Zelensky, for the second time traveling abroad since he is who became a warlord a year ago, was greeted at London’s Stansted airport by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

After an interview at 10 Downing Street, he addressed the British Parliament, the two chambers of which met in the grandiose setting of Westminster Hall, a vast room which hosted rare foreign leaders, such as the Frenchman Charles de Gaulle in 1960 but also the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II last September.

Appreciated by parliamentarians, the Ukrainian leader, in his now familiar khaki military uniform, thanked London for its support for a year, but repeated that it was not enough.

“I ask you and the world for simple but very important words: fighter jets for Ukraine, wings for freedom,” said Mr. Zelensky, before concluding with thanks “for the delicious English tea” and “in advance for British planes”.

“We know that freedom will win, we know that Russia will lose,” he said, describing a Ukrainian victory as “a victory against the very idea of ​​war”, which will discourage “any what an aggressor” in the world.

He is to meet King Charles III in the afternoon, then visit Ukrainian troops being trained in the southwest of England.

Train pilots

Deliver planes: the West has been reluctant for the moment to take this additional step in aid to Ukraine, after having painfully accepted in January to release heavy tanks, promised by London, Washington and especially Berlin .

US President Joe Biden has dismissed the idea of ​​delivering planes, while Rishi Sunak estimated last week that it would require “months” or even “years” of training for pilots.

The head of the British Conservative government, however, seemed to open the door to such an idea, promising Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday both an “immediate” increase in military aid, in particular with longer-range capabilities than at present, but also the training of fighter pilots “to ensure that Ukraine can defend its airspace in the future. »

“This training will enable pilots to be able to fly sophisticated combat aircraft meeting NATO standards”, as claimed by Kyiv, Downing Street said.

London also announced a strengthening of its sanctions against the Russian defense sector and in particular the production of drones.

“Decisive” victory

The UK provided Kyiv with 2.3 billion pounds (2.5 billion euros) in military aid last year. The government is committed to maintaining this level of aid this year, the second in the world after the United States.

London delivered lethal weapons to the Ukrainian army even before the launch of the Russian invasion and was the first country to announce in January its intention to send heavy tanks (14 Challengers 2).

“We will continue to support Ukraine to enable a decisive military victory on the battlefield,” Rishi Sunak assured Parliament before Mr. Zelensky’s intervention.

This is the second time that Volodymyr Zelensky has left Ukrainian territory in a year. During a visit of a few hours on December 21 in Washington, he was received at the White House by Joe Biden and spoke before the American Congress, whose elected officials from both chambers gave him a standing ovation.

Since then, the Russian army, backed by the paramilitaries of the Wagner group and reinforced by hundreds of thousands of mobilized civilians, has returned to the attack, in particular in the Donbass, whose annexation Moscow claims.

However, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he was convinced on Wednesday that Vladimir Putin “would not achieve his objectives”, neither on “the battlefield”, nor by “imposing a peace treaty”.

“Ukraine belongs to Europe, its future is in the European Union! And this promise counts”, estimated before the Bundestag Mr. Scholz.

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