Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky went on a surprise European tour on Feb. 8, visiting London and Paris, while meeting with three heads of state in a bid to receive additional latest-generation weapons for his war-battered country.
He, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz gave brief statements at the Élysée Palace in Paris before adjourning for a working dinner as midnight approached that day.
“I am taking a clear message to Brussels: Ukraine belongs to the European family," said Scholz, regarding the following day’s European Union summit in Brussels, which Zelensky is expected to attend.
Macron warmly greeted the Ukrainian president with Scholz and stated that France is “determined to help Ukraine to victory and the re-establishment of its legitimate rights,” while adding that Paris would continue to deliver weapons to Kyiv.
Dressed in green military fatigues, Zelensky earlier in the day told French newspaper Le Figaro that Macron’s stance has changed with regard to Russia’s unprovoked war, already entering its ninth year, and first year since the full-scale invasion.
“I think he has changed, and changed for real this time," Zelensky told Le Figaro. "After all, it is he who paved the way for the delivery of tanks. And he has also supported Ukraine's membership to the EU. I think that was a real signal," Zelensky said.
Zelensky’s visit came hours after meetings in London with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and King Charles III and addressing a joint session of the British Parliament in the House of Commons.
Downing Street confirmed that Ukrainian pilots would be trained to fly NATO-standard fighter jets on simulators as Zelensky urged to give Ukraine “wings for freedom,” in reference to more advanced aircraft to control the skies over the war-battered country.
“Nothing is off the table,” Sunak said while speaking alongside Zelensky.
He said Britain is assessing the possibility of sending long-range projectiles as well as fighter jets to allow Kyiv to achieve victory over Russia, its belligerent neighbor and former ruler.
“This is a major milestone in terms of a further increase of Ukraine’s military capability in the face of Russian aggression,” said Yuriy Sak, who advises Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov.
Only Typhoon, F-35 and Hawk trainers are flown by Britain. Still, London has been consistently in the lead in providing Kyiv with what it has asked for to fight Russia, including NLAWS tank killers and Challenger tanks.
Such moves have spurred other countries to follow suit and counter the Kremlin’s narrative that it is fighting the U.S. or NATO when a coalition of democratic countries have come to Ukraine’s aid.
“The victory will change the world and this will be a change that the world has long needed,” Zelenskyy said in his speech in Westminster Hall. “After we win together, any aggressor, it doesn’t matter big or small, will know what awaits him if he attacks the international order.”
Russia’s embassy in London responded by warning that deliveries of British fighter jets to Ukraine would have “military and political consequences for the entire European continent.”
Zelensky’s surprise trips came a day after U.S. President Joe Biden said that America would “stand with you [Ukraine] for as long as it takes” during his yearly State of the Union address in Congress.
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