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 Zelensky to make surprise visit to UK on Wednesday, says Downing Street
February 8, 2023

Zelensky to make surprise visit to UK on Wednesday, says Downing Street

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will make a surprise visit to London on Wednesday, Downing Street said, at a time when Kyiv is urging the West to send more weapons and military support to counter Russian advances.

Zelensky will meet Prime Minister Rishi Sunak along with Ukrainian troops being trained by British forces, and address Parliament, UK officials said.

The president’s visit to London is only his second outside his country since Russia invaded Ukraine almost a year ago, following his visit to Washington DC in December.

The trip comes as Zelensky has been desperately seeking military aid from Western allies as Ukrainian officials warn Moscow is gearing up for a spring offensive.

Britain announced Wednesday it would send more military equipment to Kyiv to help counter a possible Russian spring offensive. Sunak said the UK would expand training to Ukrainian fighter pilots and marines, while also promising a long-term investment in Ukraine’s military.

The UK will begin training Ukrainian pilots on NATO-standard fighter jets, in what CNN understands would be the first official training program for Ukrainian pilots on Western fighter aircraft. There was however no mention of providing Ukraine with Western fighter aircraft that Zelensky has been calling for.

The UK also said it will provide Ukraine with “longer range capabilities,” without going into details.

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

NATO allies recently answered Kyiv’s calls for main battle tanks to bolster its military – which has until now been relying on Soviet-era tanks.

The UK was the first to announce in mid-January that it would send 12 Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine. After weeks of pressure, this was followed by announcements from Germany and the US that they would send Leopard 2 and M1 Abrams tanks respectively.

Sunak said: “President Zelensky’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.”

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