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Volodymyr Zelensky addresses UK parliament in surprise visit

The Ukrainian leader made a plea for UK fighter jets

By Joe Goggins

Rishi Sunak and Volodymyr Zelensky at Stansted Airport, February 8, 2023
Zelensky arrived at Stansted Airport this morning (February 8). (Photo: Simon Dawson/Wikimedia Commons)

Volodymyr Zelensky has addressed the UK parliament as part of a surprise trip, his first to the country since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Having arrived in London this morning (February 8), he became one of a select few world leaders to address both houses of parliament when he thanked the British people for their support at Westminster Hall, where he followed in the footsteps of Charles de Gaulle, Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama. You can revisit the live stream of his speech below.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for your bravery,” he said. “London has stood with Kyiv since day one, from the first seconds and minutes of the full-scale war.” He was applauded and cheered by the politicians present as he drew a parallel between his country’s war effort and that of Britain and its allies during the second world war. “The horizon never stays clear for a while. Once the old evil is defeated, a new one is attempting to raise its head.”

He personally thanked former prime minister Boris Johnson, saying that he had “got others united when it seemed absolutely, absolutely impossible”. He was introduced by the Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who said: “We are honoured you put yourself at risk to address us and again shine a light of the fact your country is still fighting for its survival.”

Also on the agenda for Zelensky’s visit is a meeting with King Charles III; it is only the president’s second overseas trip since Russia invaded Ukraine last February, after he flew to Washington for talks with President Biden in December. He spoke earlier with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and is understood to have pressed home his plea for the UK and allies to supply fighter jets to Ukraine.

They have so far stopped short of doing so, although it was announced earlier that UK training of Ukrainian troops will be expanded to cover fighter jet pilots and marines, a previous key request from Kyiv. Additionally, the UK has announced a fresh round of sanctions on Russia, targeting IT companies and producers of military equipment. This follows plans announced last month, in co-operation with NATO allies, to send Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine.