London: Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky is making a surprise visit to the UK on Wednesday, his second trip outside the country since Vladimir Putin’s invasion almost 12 months ago.
Zelensky will address the House of Commons, visit UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in Downing Street and later visit Ukrainian troops training on British soil in England’s south-west.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv last November.Credit:Getty Images
In December, Zelensky left his country for the first time since the war began to visit the United States, where he addressed Congress, speaking entirely in English. He is also expected to use English during Wednesday’s address in Westminster.
Sunak will announce new support for Ukraine including the expansion of its training program to marines and fighter pilots, with the goal of training them to use NATO-standard jets in the future.
Sunak said in a statement that Zelensky’s visit was a testament to Ukraine’s courage, determination and fight.
“And a testament to the unbreakable friendship between our two countries,” Sunak said.
“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 United Kingdom, under Boris Johnson, led the European response to Russia’s invasion and has been one of Ukraine’s strongest allies, a stance that is well supported by the British public and has been continued by Johnson’s two successors at Number 10.
In the last six months, the UK and coalition troops have trained 10,000 Ukrainians for battle, and aim to train a further 20,000 by the end of the year.
In January, Australian troops joined that training effort.
The UK pledged tanks to the war effort in a bid to heap pressure on Germany to allow for the German-made Leopard tanks to be donated to the war effort, ahead of a Russian spring offensive.
Last week, Ukrainian troops arrived in the UK to begin training on the Challenger tanks that will be mainly used for night-time reconnaissance work.
More to come
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