Britain ‘actively considering’ sending jets to Ukraine, as Zelensky pleads with parliament

Britain is “actively considering sending fighter jets to Ukraine” after President Volodymyr Zelensky urged in a parliamentary speech to provide Britain and its Western allies with “wings for freedom” ‘ said.

In an address to both houses of parliament on February 8, Zelensky thanked Britain for its support for Ukraine’s resistance to Russian aggression, which began on February 24, 2022.

But he said his country needs more planes to defeat Russian President Vladimir Putin’s army.

“I appeal to you and the world in the simplest but most important words: Ukrainian fighter, Wings of Freedom,” Zelensky said after presenting Speaker of the House Sir Lindsay Hoyle with a Ukrainian ace fighter helmet. ,Told.

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Speaker of the House Sir Lindsay Hoyle (left) holds the helmet of one of the most successful Ukrainian pilots, engraved with the words “We have freedom, give us wings to defend it.” I’m here. Mr Zelensky addresses MPs at Westminster Hall in London on February 8, 2023 (Stefan Rousseau/PA Media)

On his last visit to parliament in peacetime two years ago, he said, “I thanked him for the good English tea”, but now he would be “thanks in advance for the mighty British planes”. .

“We know freedom will win,” Zelensky told British MPs at a packed Westminster Hall. “We know Russia will lose. And we really know that victory will change the world, and that this is the change the world has long needed.

“Britain is walking with us towards the most important victory of our lives. It will be a victory over the very idea of ​​war.”

Zelensky’s visit to Britain will be the first since the Russian invasion began in a year, and his second overseas trip after meeting in Poland with the United States in December.

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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stands with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky outside 10 Downing Street in London, February 8, 2023. (Victoria Jones/PA Media)

UK trains Ukrainian pilots

Britain has so far refused to supply British jets to Ukraine, arguing that it takes too long for pilots to train on the RAF’s F-35 and Typhoon jets.

But ahead of his meeting with the Ukrainian president, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced plans to train Ukrainian pilots to fly NATO-standard advanced fighter jets.

“Since 2014, the UK has provided critical training to the Ukrainian Armed Forces, enabling them to defend their country, defend their sovereignty and fight for their territory,” Sunak said. From Marine Corps to fighter pilots, we are proud that Ukraine will have an army that will be able to defend its interests well into the future.”

Downing Street said the training would “ensure pilots will be able to fly sophisticated NATO-standard fighters” and enable Ukraine to “defend its skies well into the future.”

The UK “wants Ukraine to be able to fly this kind of jet once it reaches its pilot training targets”.

“What we haven’t made a decision on is whether to send British fighters. Clearly there are ongoing discussions among other countries about their own fighters, some of which are Ukrainian pilots. similar to what we are used to.”

But Secretary of Defense Ben Wallace is “actively considering whether to send jets,” a spokesman said.

The government also said there would be an “immediate surge of military equipment” to Ukraine to counter the Russian spring offensive. This includes long-range capabilities that “disrupt Russia’s ability to continuously target Ukraine’s civilian and critical national infrastructure and help relieve pressure on Ukrainian military installations,” the Frontline said. “

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RAF Typhoon fighter in undated file photo. (SAC Charlotte Hopkins/MoD/PA)

Following Zelensky’s speech, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged Sunak to supply Ukraine with jets and tanks.

“It’s time to give the Ukrainians the extra equipment they need to overthrow Putin and restore peace to Ukraine,” he said. “That means more long-range missiles and artillery. It means more tanks. Planes.

“We have over 100 Typhoon jets. We have over 100 Challenger 2 tanks. The best single use of these items is to deploy them now to protect the Ukrainians.

Johnson said supplying Ukraine with Typhoon jets would require assistance from Germany, Italy and Spain, the other countries involved in developing the aircraft, but insisted that was not the problem. .

“It is true that the Typhoon is a four-state aircraft and exports require allied approval. However, there is no reason to think that Germany or any other country should oppose our decision. is a British aircraft.”

further sanctions

Britain also announced a new set of sanctions against Russian companies and Putin’s allies to coincide with Zelensky’s surprise visit. CST, a Russian drone manufacturer, and RT-Komplekt, which makes parts for helicopters used in the war with Ukraine, are among the sanctioned companies.

Five people associated with Putin’s luxurious mansion, including the president’s Entrepreneurship Rights Commissioner Boris Titov and Aerostart owner Viktor Myatin, were also subject to travel bans and asset freezes. .

“These new sanctions are accelerating economic pressure on Putin and undermining his war machine to help Ukraine win,” said Foreign Secretary James Cleverly.

“I am absolutely determined that Russia will not be able to access our frozen assets until the threat to Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty and integrity is completely eliminated.”

PA Media contributed to this report.