UPDATED: ‘Thank you, Britain’ – cheers and applause for Zelenskyy as he addresses British parliament

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  • Zelenskiy to address British parliament, visit troops
  • Second trip abroad for Ukrainian leader since invasion
  • Britain promises to train Ukrainian pilots on NATO jets

Zelenskyy praised the UK – and the US – for helping Ukraine before the full-scale invasion by Russia.

The Ukrainian president says this “coalition of friends” will be needed in the future to prevent aggression in other regions.

He praised the UK for providing Ukraine with the weapons to protect the lives of children, civilians, women, elderly, and citizens from Russia’s “atrocious occupation and missile terror”.

This coalition of air defence, the coalition of sanctions, and the coalition of values within the G7 are all praised by Mr Zelenskyy.

He praised the UK for its help in preparing the ground for a special tribunal for the crime of Russian aggression, and a special compensation mechanism.

Mr Zelenskyy thanked the UK for sending tanks and long-range missiles – which he says will force Russia to “completely retreat”.

Zelenskyy thanked MPs for their “bravery” in the face of the Russian war. 

“London has stood with Kyiv since day one, since the first seconds and minutes of the war… extending a helping hand when the world had not yet come to understand how to react,” he said. 

Addressing former PM Boris Johnson, he thanked him for getting other countries to back Ukraine and says MPs “showed your grit and character back then – strong British character”. 

The Ukrainian leader said the countries worked together across their histories to “enjoy peace”, adding: “You and us and the whole of mankind achieved the same result – evil lost.

“We will always come out on top of evil – this lies at the core of our and your traditions.”

He added the evil returns again, but still “we know freedom will win, we know Russia will lose, and we really know the victory will change the world and this will be a change the world has long needed”.

And after Ukraine wins the war, he says any future aggressor and dictator will know what they will face – “any aggressor is going to lose”.

Britain’s King Charles will hold an audience with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy during his trip to the United Kingdom on Wednesday, Buckingham Palace said.

Zelenskiy was scheduled to meet Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and address Britain’s parliament, as well as visit King Charles at his royal residence in London.

Sunak said on Wednesday his government wanted to see a decisive military victory on the battlefield this year in Ukraine.

“Our objective remains to ensure a Ukrainian victory in this conflict,” Sunak told parliament.

“We will continue to support Ukraine to ensure a decisive military victory on the battlefield this year.”

Zelenskiy’s trip to Britain will be his second foreign visit since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly a year ago, and comes at a time when Kyiv is urging the West for more military support.

Britain pledged to expand the training of Ukrainian troops to include fighter jet pilots and marines, with Sunak adding that he wanted to ensure “Ukraine has a military able to defend its interests well into the future.”

It is his first visit to the UK since Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year, and won promises of new military aid, including training on advanced NATO fighter jets the West has so far held back from supplying.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s office said Zelenskiy would address parliament and visit Ukrainian troops training in Britain.

“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.

Sunak’s office announced additional sanctions on Russia, as well as plans to accelerate the supply of military equipment to Kyiv. For the first time, Ukraine’s air force and marines would now be included in the British training programme.

“The training will ensure pilots are able to fly sophisticated NATO-standard fighter jets in the future,” it said, although it gave no timeframe.

That appeared to signal a notable shift in Western support, as countries have so far held back from providing jets or weapons that could strike deep into Russia.

Zelenskiy is also seen as likely to attend an EU summit later this week as he drums up support from Western allies at the outset of what Kyiv says will be a decisive second year of the war. The bloc’s leaders are gathering in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, and Zelenskiy has a standing invitation, although official plans have not been announced.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (L) welcomes Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky (R) to 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, 08 February 2023. Zelensky is making his first visit to the UK since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. EPA-EFE/ANDY RAIN

Zelenskiy visited the United States in December and addressed the U.S. Congress on his only known trip abroad since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February last year.

Western countries have dramatically scaled up their pledges of military support for Ukraine since the start of the new year, including promises of hundreds of tanks and armoured vehicles. Kyiv still wants longer range missiles and war planes.

After major Ukrainian gains in the second half of 2022, Russia has recovered momentum, with tens of thousands of freshly mobilised troops reaching the front.

Russian forces have made incremental progress in relentless winter battles in the east of the country in recent weeks which both sides describe as some of the bloodiest fighting of the war.

Kyiv says it expects Moscow to broaden that offensive with a big push as the Feb. 24 first anniversary of the invasion approaches.

“They need to have something to show before their people, and have a major desire to do something big, as they see it, by this date,” Ukraine’s national security chief Oleksiy Danilov told Reuters on Tuesday in an interview.

He predicted Russia, which has focused lately on the Donetsk region in the east, would try new attacks on Kharkiv further north or Zaporizhzhia further south.

“How successful they’ll be will depend on us.”

Russia launched its “special military operation” to combat what it describes as a security threat from Ukraine’s ties to the West, and says Western supplies of weapons to Kyiv will only prolong the war. It claims to have annexed four Ukrainian provinces last year.

Ukraine says the only way to stop the war is for the West to give it the capability to drive Russian forces out.

Western fighter jets are at the top of Ukraine’s wishlist for weapons. Neither Moscow nor Kyiv enjoys air superiority over Ukraine, which has limited the use of piloted air craft on both sides in the war.

The United States and Britain have suggested they would not send their own fighter jets to Ukraine. But other countries have indicated that they might do so, keeping the door open for a collective decision by Western allies.

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