Volodymyr Zelenskyy made an unannounced visit to the United Kingdom on February 8. This means that, contrary to what Western media suggested earlier, Ukraine’s president chose London for his second foreign visit after the full-scale Russian invasion, and not Brussels. What is known about Zelenskyy’s visit to London, with whom he plans to meet, and how will it help Ukraine fight the war?
Zelenskyy’s second foreign visit: military aircraft and military aid
According to Sky News, the Ukrainian president landed at Stansted Airport on a Royal Air Force plane just before 10:30 a.m. (around 12:30 a.m. Kyiv time). There, he was greeted by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
Zelenskyy met with Rishi Sunak in the United Kingdom [video]
"The United Kingdom was one of the first to come to Ukraine's aid. And today I'm in London to personally thank the British people for their support and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for his leadership," Zelenskyy wrote.
Previously, Ukraine’s president had made only one trip abroad after last year’s escalation of Russia's war in Ukraine: in December 2022, he visited Washington and spoke in the U.S. Congress.
His visit was compared to that of Winston Churchill on December 26, 1941, after the attack on Pearl Harbor and the formal entry of the United States into World War II.
The British prime minister’s website reported that as part of Zelenskyy’s visit, Rishi Sunak was planning to announce the following:
- the extension of military training for the Armed Forces of Ukraine to pilots and marines, which will include training Ukrainian pilots to fly NATO-standard fighter jets;
- the expansion of the package of military equipment provided to Ukraine to give Ukrainian forces the upper hand on the battlefield and limit Russia’s ability to target Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure;
- 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;
- the provision of longer range capabilities to Ukraine, supposedly long-range weapons.
What Volodymyr Zelenskyy does in the United Kingdom
In London, Volodymyr Zelenskyy was planning to:
- talk with Rishi Sunak about immediate military support for Ukraine in anticipation of Russia’s imminent offensive;
- meet with the King of the United Kingdom, Charles III, which has already been confirmed by Buckingham Palace;
- visit the Ukrainian troops who are currently undergoing training in the U.K., including on Challenger 2 tanks;
- address the British Parliament (around 3:00 p.m. Kyiv time);
- meet with defense and security chiefs, including the Chief of the Defense Staff and the Chief of the Air Staff, to discuss the details of the training program for the Armed Forces of Ukraine in Britain.
The United Kingdom will also offer Ukraine support in implementing the "peace formula" by Volodymyr Zelenskyy, which provides for the liberation of all Ukrainian territories, bringing Russia to justice for war crimes, and the payment of reparations to Ukraine.
"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," Rishi Sunak emphasized.
Sky News also recalls that Volodymyr Zelenskyy is expected to visit Brussels on February 9 to attend the summit of European Union leaders and governments. The visit has yet to be officially confirmed, and it is dependent on the situation in Ukraine and the possibility of ensuring Ukraine's leader's safety.
How the United Kingdom is helping Ukraine
The United Kingdom has already trained 10,000 Ukrainian service members in the last six months and plans to train 20,000 more troops in 2023.
The BBC notes that since the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, London has spent £2.3 billion (€2.57 billion) on military assistance to Kyiv, making the country the second biggest donor behind the U.S.
The U.K. has also imposed a series of financial sanctions on Russia and taken over 100,000 Ukrainian refugees.
Military equipment provided so far includes:
- several air defense systems, including Starstreak, designed to bring down low-flying aircraft at short range;
- Challenger 2 tanks;
- artillery including 30 AS90 self propelled artillery guns;
- hundreds of thousands of rounds of 155mm ammo;
- M270 multiple-launch rocket systems with M31A1 precision munitions;
- next-generation light anti-tank weapons, or Nlaw;
- maritime Brimstone missiles;
- armored vehicles, including Mastiff patrol vehicles;
- heavy lift unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems to provide logistical support to isolated force;
- electronic warfare equipment.
Last week, Ukrainian troops arrived in the U.K. to receive training on how to operate Challenger 2 tanks.