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Zelensky rallies UK's support for Ukraine on latest surprise visit

Zelensky rallies UK's support for Ukraine on latest surprise visit


Zelensky rallies UK's support for Ukraine on latest surprise visit

(AFP) - President Volodymyr Zelensky said he wanted to build a "jet coalition" between Ukraine and its Western allies as he visited the UK on Monday, the latest stop on an unannounced tour of Europe aimed at rallying support ahead of a planned counteroffensive against Russia.

"We want to create this jet coalition," Zelensky said after two hours of talks with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

The Ukrainian leader said he expected "very important decisions" to be announced soon while cautioning that "we have to work a little bit more on it".

Zelensky has requested modern Western fighter jets to help Ukraine's forces retake ground captured by Russia, though so far only Poland and Slovakia have sent aircraft – and only older models from the Soviet era.

"Today – London. The UK is a leader when it comes to expanding our capabilities on the ground and in the air. This cooperation will continue today," Zelensky said on Twitter as he prepared to arrive by helicopter at the British prime minister's country residence.

In a joint press conference, Sunak confirmed that the UK would help Ukraine build up its air capacity, including by training Ukrainian fighter pilots.

But he did not announce plans to send aircraft, though the UK has pledged to supply air defence missiles and long-range attack drones.
A spokesperson for the British prime minister later said that London had no plans to send the advanced F-16 fighter jets requested by Ukraine.

European tour

"As we said right at the beginning, the UK will remain steadfast in supporting Ukraine and its people ... We're here for the long term," Sunak said, responding to a statement from the Russian government criticising the UK's decision to send extra missiles and drones.

Zelensky's visit to the UK followed stops in Italy, Germany and France, a tour designed to shore up European support for Ukraine as it prepares for a much-anticipated counteroffensive.

It was another powerful day for our defense, for our international positions.

Visiting Paris on Sunday for a meeting with President Emmanuel Macron, Zelensky secured a pledge from France for additional military aid for Ukraine, including light tanks, armoured vehicles and training for soldiers.

The string of visits also served to highlight Russia's isolation.
President Vladimir Putin has barely left Russia since ordering the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, which drew sanctions from the European Union, the United States and several other Western countries.

Russia's remaining allies also face pressure to cut off ties. Last week saw a diplomatic dispute break out after the US accused South Africa of covertly supplying arms to Russia.

The South African government, which is officially neutral, said it had opened an investigation into the allegation – made public by the US ambassador to Pretoria – that weapons and ammunition were loaded onto a Russian ship docked off Cape Town at the end of last year.

The US has not indicated that it will take any action, but fears that Washington could withdraw its trade to punish South Africa caused the rand to nosedive against the dollar.