Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is making a surprise wartime visit to the United Kingdom, where he will meet British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and King Charles.
Zelenskyy will also visit Ukrainian troops training in Britain and address parliament on Wednesday.
The visit marks his first to the United Kingdom since Russia’s invasion began last February and comes after he travelled to the United States in December.
On Tuesday, the European Union said it had invited the Ukrainian leader to Brussels.
Meanwhile, Sunak’s office announced plans to expand the training for the Armed Forces of Ukraine to sea and air – including fighter jet pilots and marines – and accelerate the supply of military equipment.
“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,” Sunak said in the statement.
vaded the country.
In that speech, the Ukrainian leader evoked Winston Churchill’s 1940 “never surrender” speech and vowed that Ukrainians “will fight till the end at sea, in the air. We will continue fighting for our land, whatever the cost.”
In the US, on his first foreign wartime visit, Zelenskyy addressed lawmakers and evoked Martin Luther King.
“‘I have a dream’. These words are known to each of you today. I can say I have a need, a need to protect our sky. I need your decision, your help, which means exactly the same, the same you feel when you hear the words, ‘I have a dream’,” he said.
Before Sunak took office in October, Zelenskyy had formed a close relationship with the former prime minister, Boris Johnson, who was one of Ukraine’s most vocal backers in the early days of the war.
Since then, the UK has become one of Ukraine’s biggest military backers and has sent the embattled nation more than 2bn pounds ($2.5bn) in weapons and equipment.
More than 10,000 Ukrainian troops have been trained at British military bases, some on the Challenger 2 tanks it’s sending to Kyiv.
Zelenskyy’s visit comes amid fears Russia is planning a major new offensive to coincide with the year anniversary of the war.
Russian forces in Ukraine are focusing on “waging a counteroffensive” to take complete control of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions that make up the Donbas, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said. [AL JAZEERA]