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War in Ukraine, day 350 | On a surprise visit to London, Zelensky gets the prospect of aircraft deliveries



(London) On a surprise visit to London, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky obtained Wednesday from the United Kingdom to take a new step in its support by opening the door to possible “long-term” deliveries of planes, claimed by Kyiv in its allies 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 is to meet French leaders Emmanuel Macron and German Olaf Scholz, then Thursday in Brussels for a European Union summit, Volodymyr Zelensky is traveling abroad for the second time since becoming warlord a year ago.

For his first stage, he was received by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in Downing Street and then addressed the British Parliament, whose two chambers met in the grandiose setting of Westminster Hall, a vast hall which has hosted rare foreign leaders, like the French Charles de Gaulle in 1960 but also the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II in September.

Applauded, the Ukrainian leader, in his now familiar khaki military uniform, thanked London emphatically for its support, 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”.

Train pilots

So far, Westerners have been reluctant to take this extra step in helping Ukraine for fear of an escalation with Russia. But the taboos have been falling one after the other for a year and the supporters of Kyiv have already agreed in January to release heavy tanks, promised by London, Washington and especially Berlin.

Seeming to open the door, the head of the British Conservative government promised Volodymyr Zelensky to train fighter pilots “to NATO standards” and this “in order to guarantee that Ukraine can defend its airspace in the future” .

He then let it be known, via his spokesperson, that he had asked the army to study possible aircraft deliveries while warning that it could only be “a long-term solution rather than short-term capability, which is what Ukraine needs most right now”.

In the “immediate”, London will increase its military aid, with the delivery of longer-range artillery capabilities.

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

“Decisive” victory

London is Kyiv’s first ally to crack open the door to plane delivery, albeit from a distant perspective. US President Joe Biden has thus ruled out the idea of ​​​​delivering planes.

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

The latter was also later received at Buckingham Palace by King Charles III, whom he thanked for British support for Ukrainian refugees. He was then to visit Ukrainian troops being trained in the southwest of England.

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.

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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