Speaking in Westminster Hall in the Palace of Westminster, a historic building that contains the House of Commons and the House of Lords, Zelenskyy thanked Britain for its support of Ukraine.
“London has stood with Kyiv since day one,” Zelenskyy said. “Since the first seconds and minutes of the full-scale war. Great Britain, you extended your helping hand when the world had not yet come to understand how to react.”
Zelenskyy also gifted a Ukrainian fighter pilot’s helmet to Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker of the house of Commons. The helmet was signed by the president and featured the message: “We have freedom. Give us wings to protect it.”
The message was a clear call for the United Kingdom to supply fighter jets to Ukraine, and comes after the United States ruled out the possibility of sending F-16 jets to Ukraine at least for the time being.
Zelenskyy explicitly called for the planes, too. In his speech, the Ukrainian president said that two years ago, when he last visited the British parliament, he thanked his hosts for the “delicious English tea.”
This time, Zelenskyy said, he will leave the country thanking them in advance for “powerful English planes.”
Zelenskyy may get what he asked for, too. In a joint press conference on Wednesday evening, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that “nothing is off the table” when it comes to providing Ukraine with more powerful weapons.
Zelenskyy Is Getting His Way
In Wednesday’s joint press conference, Sunak said that the first step towards providing Ukraine with the fighter jets it needs would be to ensure Ukrainian pilots know how to use the planes.
“The first step in being able to provide advanced aircrafts is to have soldiers or aviators that are capable of using them,” Sunak said. “That is a process that takes some time. We’ve started that process today.”
In a press release, the British government confirmed that the UK will “step up its delivery of lethal aid into the country” and prepare to “train fighter jet pilots and marines.”
“As part of today’s talks, the Prime Minister will offer to bolster the UK’s training offer for Ukrainian troops, including expanding it to fighter jet pilots to ensure Ukraine can defend its skies well into the future,” the press release continues, adding that pilots will be trained to fly “sophisticated NATO-standard fighter jets.”
Jack Buckby is 19FortyFive’s Breaking News Editor. He is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.