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UK pledges to train Ukrainian pilots on NATO jets, Zelensky addresses British parliament in second international trip since start of war

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s second international trip since the start of Russia’s invasion began with a notable pledge from British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. UK specialists will teach Ukrainian pilots to fly advanced NATO-standard fighters, Sunak said, marking “a big step up in Western military support,” according to a Reuters report.

According to a statement from 10 Downing Street, the British training programme for Ukrainian servicemen will include fighter jet pilots and marines for the first time.

Reuters outlined that the UK’s commitment marked a “notable shift in support that could pave the way for other countries to send planes.” Western countries have so far refrained from providing the Ukrainian army with aircraft or other weapons that could be used to strike deep inside Russia. Reuters also noted that British officials previously said that Britain's jets require too much training to be useful now.

During his visit, Zelensky addressed the UK Parliament, with a broadcast of the speech published on the BBC website. “I will leave parliament today thanking you for the powerful English planes,” Zelensky said at the end of his speech, capping off the address with “God Save the King” and “Slava Ukraini” (“Glory to Ukraine”).

Volodymyr Zelensky addresses a joint session of the UK Parliament at Westminster Hall
Volodymyr Zelensky addresses a joint session of the UK Parliament at Westminster Hall
Screenshot: BBC

Zelensky's schedule also included a meeting with King Charles III and a visit to Ukrainian troops training in Britain. On Thursday, February 9, the Ukrainian leader will travel to Brussels for an European Union leader’s summit.

According to the UK PM’s office, 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been trained under the current program for recruits over the past six months, and another 20,000 troops are in line to be trained this year. Ukrainian crews arrived in the UK last week to begin training on Challenger 2 tanks, which are due to be supplied to Ukraine.

Earlier today, the UK expanded its sanctions list of Russian individuals and companies linked to the invasion of Ukraine.

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