'Ukraine will defeat Russia,' Zelenskyy tells UK parliament, urges allies to send combat aircraft & weapons

UK has offered to train Ukrainian fighter pilots on top of an existing programme that has already prepared 10,000 troops for battle. However, UK stopped short of offering Kyiv its Typhoon and F-35 fighter jets saying it would require months if not years of training

FP Staff February 08, 2023 19:33:43 IST
'Ukraine will defeat Russia,' Zelenskyy tells UK parliament, urges allies to send combat aircraft & weapons

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (R) is applauded by Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle (C) and Speaker of the House of Lords Lord McFall (L) at the end of his address to British MPs in Westminster Hall, inside the Palace of Westminster, home to Britain's House of Commons and House of Lords in central London on February 8, 2023. - AFP

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday vowed victory over Russia as he called on western nations to provide Ukraine with warplanes, in a historic address to the UK parliament.

“We know freedom will win, we know Russia will lose. The United Kingdom is marching with us towards the most… important victory of our lifetime. It will be a victory over the very idea of the war,” he said.

“I appeal to you and the world… for combat aircraft for Ukraine, wings for freedom,” he told lawmakers of the lower and upper houses of the British parliament.

Zelenskyy also urged Kyiv’s allies to supply “the necessary weapons” to stop Russia’s invasion.

He “emphasised the importance for Ukraine to receive the necessary weapons from allies to stop the Russian offensive and liberate all temporarily occupied Ukrainian territories,” the Ukrainian presidency said in a statement following the Ukrainian president’s meeting with UK PM Rishi Sunak.

The Ukrainian president also met King Charles III.

This is Zelenskyy’s first trip to the UK and only the second trip overseas since the Russia-Ukraine war began nearly a year ago. He visited the US last December.

UK to train Ukrainian pilots

UK has offered to train Ukrainian fighter pilots on top of an existing programme that has already prepared 10,000 troops for battle.

The country, however, stopped short, of offering Kyiv its Typhoon and F-35 fighter jets saying it would require months if not years of training.

It added that it would consider the proposal for combat aircraft in the “long term”, although the United States and other NATO allies remain wary of getting more embroiled in the conflict.

The United States has so far also rejected any deliveries of F-16 warplanes to Ukraine, but other partners, including Poland, have shown themselves more open to the idea.

Sunak’s office said he had tasked the defence secretary with “investigating what jets we might be able to give but, to be clear, this is a long-term solution rather than a short-term capability.”

In the meantime, the new UK training will “ensure pilots are able to fly sophisticated NATO-standard fighter jets in the future”, an earlier statement from Sunak’s office said.

Speaking alongside Zelenskyy in front of a British tank, Sunak said that “nothing is off the table” for Ukraine — including fighter-combat aircraft.

“Of course they are part of the conversation,” he said but held back from giving a concrete commitment to provide fighter planes.

Zelenskyy said that fighter jets had been discussed and reiterated his call for longer-range missiles.

Russia subsequently said that there would be a “response” from Moscow should Britain supply aircraft to Ukraine.

Deadliest 24 hours for Russian troops: Ukraine

Meanwhile, Ukraine on Tuesday said the last 24 hours were the deadliest of the war so far for Russian troops, as Moscow hurls tens of thousands of freshly mobilised soldiers and mercenaries into relentless winter assaults in the east.

The Ukrainian military increased its running tally of Russian military dead by 1,030 overnight to 133,190, and described the increase as the highest of the war so far. It also said its troops destroyed 25 Russian tanks in the last two days.

However, the number of casualties could not be independently confirmed, and Moscow denies its forces have suffered losses on such a scale.

With inputs from agencies

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