President Zelenskyy makes first visit to the UK since Russian invasion

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak greets Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine as he arrives in the United Kingdom. Picture by Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street

President Zelenskyy has arrived in the the UK today to meet Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and address parliament as the UK steps up its delivery of lethal aid into the country, and prepares to train fighter jet pilots and marines.                                                                                 

The leaders are discussing a two-pronged approach to UK support for Ukraine, starting with an immediate surge of military equipment to the country to help counter Russia’s spring offensive, and reinforced by long-term support.

The Prime Minister has said he will also offer the UK’s backing to President Zelenskyy’s plans to work towards a just and lasting peace for Ukraine.

As part of today’s talks, the Prime Minister will offer to bolster the UK’s training offer for Ukrainian troops, including expanding it to fighter jet pilots to ensure Ukraine can defend its skies well into the future.

The training will ensure pilots are able to fly sophisticated NATO-standard fighter jets in the future. As part of that long-term capability investment, the UK will work with Ukraine and international allies to coordinate collective support to meet Ukraine’s defensive needs.

He will also offer to begin an immediate training programme for marines.

That training will be in addition to the recruit training programme already running in the UK, which has seen 10,000 Ukrainian troops brought to battle readiness in the last six months, and which will upskill a further 20,000 Ukrainian soldiers this year. The UK will continue to work with the Ukrainian Armed Forces and international community to scale the programme up in 2023.

Just last week, Ukrainian troops arrived in the UK to learn how to command Challenger 2 tanks, following the Prime Minister’s decision to send the main battle tanks to Ukraine.

The Prime Minister will also offer to provide Ukraine with longer range capabilities. This will disrupt Russia’s ability to continually target Ukraine’s civilian and critical national infrastructure and help relieve pressure on Ukraine’s frontlines.

The President and his team will also meet defence and security chiefs, including the Chief of Defence Staff and Chief of the Air Staff, to discuss the details of the training programme.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said:

President Zelenskyy’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.

Since 2014, the UK has provided vital training to Ukrainian forces, allowing them to defend their country, protect their sovereignty and fight for their territory.

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. It also underlines our commitment to not just provide military equipment for the short term, but a long-term pledge to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Ukraine for years to come.

The UK will also announce further sanctions today in response to Russia’s continued bombardment of Ukraine, including the targeting of those who have helped Putin build his personal wealth, and companies who are profiting from the Kremlin’s war machine.

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