Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday arrived in the UK and was greeted by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as the two then headed to the 10 Downing Street to hold bilateral talks. According to the Prime Minister's Office, this would be the first visit of Ukrainain premier Zelenskyy to Britain since Russian’s invasion in February, last year. The visit comes as Sunak plans on vowing more military support to Kyiv ahead of fears that Russia is planning a major Spring offensive.
"Welcome to the UK, President Zelenskyy," tweeted UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak.
Welcome to the UK, President @ZelenskyyUa.— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) February 8, 2023
🇬🇧🇺🇦 #SlavaUkraini pic.twitter.com/rMoBTC3ken
Sunak had earlier announced UK's plans of training Ukrainian pilots to be able to fly the sophisticated stealth fighter jets that NATO may provide in the future to counter Russia's offensive positions. The British prime minister had also clarified that UK is expanding training for the Armed Forces of Ukraine to sea and air, for the fighter jet pilots and marines, as part of long-term investment in Kyiv's military. Ukrainian pilots and marine training will be in addition to the recruit training programme rolled out by the UK. As many as 10,000 Ukrainian troops were brought to battle readiness in the last six months by Royal Armed Forces as latter plans to 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," stated Downing Street.
Ex-British PM Boris Johnson, who has built a good rapport with Volodymyr Zelenskyy during his premiership, has tweeted the Ukrainian leader's UK visit.
Welcome back to the UK, @ZelenskyyUa. Look forward to hearing you address Parliament 🇬🇧🇺🇦 #Ukrainemustwin— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) February 8, 2023
Zelenskyy is expected to meet with the Ukraine troops, as Sunak will pledge to accelerate military equipment in a bid to give ally forces the upper hand on the battlefield. UK plans to limit Russia’s ability to target civilian infrastructure, said the 10 Downing Street. Ukraine's President will also have an audience with the King, and address Parliament during his visit, Sunak's office noted. "At midday, Mr Sunak will likely face questions in the House of Commons over his Whitehall shake-up that saw a new energy security department established, with Grant Shapps as secretary of state," it informed. UK Prime Minister Sunak will also offer robust and lasting backing to President Zelenskyy’s plans of working towards the just and lasting peace for Ukraine.
Commenting on Zelenskyy's first visit to the UK, Sunak in a statement said that the surprise arrival is a testament to Kyiv's courage, determination and fight, and unbreakable friendship with the UK. Since 2014, the UK has provided vital training to Ukrainian forces, Sunak noted, adding that his country will remain in forefront to protect Kyiv's sovereignty.
"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," said UK PM Sunak.