February 21. 2024. 7:13

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Ukraine’s Zelenskyy to visit UK in second trip abroad

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is set to make a surprise visit to London on Wednesday (8 February), only the second time he has left his country since Russia invaded his country on 24 February 2022.

His only other trip out of Ukraine was when he went to the United States and stopped over in Poland on the way back just before Christmas.

Zelenskyy is set to meet Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in London, as the UK is expected to announce new training programmes for Ukrainian fighter pilots who will be operating NATO-standard fighter jets, as well as for marines.

This comes in addition to an expansion of the UK training for Ukrainian recruits, which was doubled to 20,000 soldiers this year.

In a statement on Wednesday, Sunak said the new training programmes show Britain’s commitment “to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Ukraine for years to come”.

During their talks, Sunak is expected to offer Kyiv longer-range weapons and his backing for Zelenskyy’s plans to work toward peace, 10 Downing Street said in a statement.

Zelenskyy’s surprise trip is expected to include a visit to Ukrainian troops being trained by the British armed forces and an address to the UK Parliament.

“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 added.

Western countries have dramatically scaled up their pledges of military support for Ukraine since the start of the new year, including promises of hundreds of tanks and armoured vehicles.

Ukraine, meanwhile, still wants longer-range missiles and fighter jets as it expects Moscow to push ahead with a spring offensive as the first anniversary of the invasion approaches.

After major Ukrainian gains in the second half of 2022, Russia has recovered momentum, with tens of thousands of freshly mobilised troops reaching the front.

Brussels next?

Earlier this week, media reports indicated the Ukrainian president is expected to pay a visit to Brussels where EU leaders are gathering for a summit on Thursday (9 February).

However, the visit has been cast in doubt after the plans were leaked by European Parliament political groups on Monday, raising concerns about guaranteeing security.

European Council President Charles Michel has extended an “open invitation” to Zelenskyy to visit Brussels, Michel’s spokesman Barend Leyts clarified.

He later tweeted that Michel invited Zelenskyy “to participate in person in a future summit”.

Zelenskyy has addressed EU summits via video link, his most memorable participation being that of last 25 February, a day after Russia invaded his country. Reportedly, he then addressed leaders in a way similar to a final goodbye.

If confirmed, this week’s visit would come a week after an unprecedented EU visit to Kyiv, the first to a war-torn country.

Ukraine renews case for membership to visiting EU top officials

Ukraine’s leadership on Thursday (2 February) made an unequivocal plea for EU membership as the bloc’s top officials met their government counterparts in Kyiv in a first-of-its-kind gathering.