Daily Local News (West Chester, PA)

Zelenskyy tells UK ‘freedom will win,’ pushes for warplanes

- By Jill Lawless

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pushed for fighter jets to ensure his country’s victory over Russia in a dramatic speech before the U.K. Parliament, where he also thanked the British people for their support since “Day One” of Moscow’s invasion.

The embattled leader’s surprise visit to Britain in a bid for more advanced weapons comes as Ukraine braces for an expected Russian offensive and hatches its own plans to retake land held by Moscow’s forces. Support from Western allies has been key to Ukraine surprising­ly stiff defense, and the two sides are engaged in grinding battles.

It was only Zelenskyy’s second foreign trip since Russia invaded on Feb, 24, 2022, and he visited the U.S. in December.

The French president’s office said he will host Zelenskyy and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Paris later in the day.

Hundreds of lawmakers and parliament­ary staff packed the 900-yearold Westminste­r Hall, the oldest — and, on a cold winter day, unheated — part of Parliament for Zelenskyy’s speech.

Zelenskyy, wearing his trademark olive drab sweatshirt, urged allies to send his country jets, saying combat aircraft would be “wings for freedom.”

In a pointed and dramatic gesture, Zelenskyy presented the speaker of the House of Commons with a Ukrainian air force helmet, inscribed by a Ukrainian pilot: “We have freedom. Give us wings to protect it.”

The president is trying to soften allies’ reluctance to send advanced fighter jets, both because they are complex to fly and for fear of escalating the war.

The U.K. has repeatedly said it’s not practical to provide the Ukrainian military with British warplanes, but its stance may be changing. The government said Wednesday it would train Ukrainian pilots on “NATO-standard fighter jets,” without saying what kind.

Zelenskyy, who planned to meet later with King Charles III, noted that the British monarch was a qualified military pilot.

“The king is an air force pilot,” Zekenskyy said, and “in Ukraine today, every air force pilot is a king.”

Zelenskyy was greeted with applause, cheers and cries of “Slava Ukraini” — “Glory to Ukraine” — as he arrived in Parliament, where Ukraine’s cause has wide support from both the Conservati­ve government and opposition parties.

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