London: In his first visit to the UK since Russia invaded Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will meet British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak here on Wednesday, address Parliament and also meet King Charles.
The visit comes as Sunak extended the UK’s ongoing support to train Ukrainian fighter jet pilots and marines to help upskill their defensive capabilities.
Buckingham Palace said the surprise visit, not announced in advance due to security reasons, will also include a meeting with King Charles III.
According to the UK government officials, the leaders during their meeting at 10 Downing Street here, will discuss a two-pronged approach to Britain’s support for Ukraine, starting with an immediate surge of military equipment to the country to help counter Russia’s “offensive” and reinforced by long-term support.
“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,” said Sunak.
“Since 2014, the UK has provided vital training to Ukrainian forces, allowing them to defend their country, protect their sovereignty and fight for their territory. I am proud that today we will expand that training from soldiers to marines and fighter jet pilots, ensuring Ukraine has a military able to defend its interests well into the future,” he said.
Downing Street said the bolstered training offer will ensure Ukraine’s pilots are able to fly sophisticated North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) standard fighter jets in the future.
“It also underlines our commitment to not just provide military equipment for the short term, but a long-term pledge to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Ukraine for years to come,” he explained.
As part of that long-term capability investment, the UK will work with Ukraine and international allies to coordinate collective support to meet Ukraine’s defensive needs.
A training programme for marines will be in addition to the recruit training programme already running in the UK, which has seen 10,000 Ukrainian troops brought to battle readiness in the last six months, and which will upskill a further 20,000 Ukrainian soldiers this year, officials said.
The UK said it will continue to work with the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the international community to scale the programme up in 2023.
Last week, Ukrainian troops arrived in the UK to learn how to command Challenger 2 tanks, following Sunak’s decision to send the main battle tanks to Ukraine.
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Under his expanded offer, Sunak will provide Ukraine with longer-range capabilities aimed at disrupting Russia’s ability to “continually target Ukraine’s civilian and critical national infrastructure and help relieve pressure on Ukraine’s frontlines”.
During the visit, Zelenskyy and his team will also meet Britain’s defence and security chiefs, including the Chief of Defence Staff and Chief of the Air Staff, to discuss the details of the training programme.
Meanwhile, the UK is expected to announce further sanctions on Wednesday in response to Russia’s “continued bombardment of Ukraine, including the targeting of those who have helped [Russian President] Putin build his personal wealth and companies who are profiting from the Kremlin’s war machine”.
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