Zelenskyy appeals for new weapons from France, Germany, UK in face-to-face meetings

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(LONDON) — President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday evening appealed to the leaders of Germany and France for new weapons to aid Ukraine’s fight against Russia, after making a similar plea to Britain’s leaders earlier in the day.

Zelenskyy had begun the day with a surprise visit to the United Kingdom, addressing Parliament and meeting leaders, before flying to France to meet with with President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at Élysée Palace.

“The sooner Ukraine can get powerful long-range weapons, Emmanuel, the sooner our pilots can get modern aircraft, Olaf, the stronger our tank coalition is,” Zelenskyy said. “I am grateful to you for having embarked on this path — the sooner this Russian aggression will end and we will return a steadfast peace to Europe.”

The French and German leaders expressed their support for Ukraine’s efforts, as leaders in the U.K. had done earlier in the day.

“In the same way we have went ahead with new military equipment deliveries over the last few weeks, we will continue our work,” Macron said. “Tonight, we will talk together about the operational needs of Ukraine.”

The Ukrainian leader arrived on Thursday in Brussels to attend a European Union summit.

Zelenskyy on Wednesday had British lawmakers spellbound as he addressed them from the steps of Westminster Hall during a rare international trip. His message was clear, thanking them for their support but pleading for fighter jets.

“The world needs your leadership, Britain, just as it needs Ukrainian bravery … We have freedom. Give us wings to protect it,” he said.

Zelenskyy then gave the speaker of the House a Ukrainian air force pilot’s helmet with that message written on it.

Saying his audience with the king would be “truly special,” he noted, “The king was an Air Force pilot, and in Ukraine every Air Force pilot is a king.”

“Because they are so few, they are so precious that we, the servants of our kings, do everything possible and impossible to make the world provide us with modern planes to empower and protect pilots who will be protecting us,” he said.

“I will be leaving parliament today, thanking you in advance for powerful English planes,” Zelenskyy concluded his speech.

Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press secretary, was asked what Russia’s reaction would be if the U.K., Germany or France supplied more advanced weapons to Ukraine, according to Interfax, an official Russian news agency.

“We perceive this as a growing involvement of the U.K., Germany, and France in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine,” Peskov said on Thursday. “The borderline between indirect and direct involvement is gradually vanishing.”

He said that Putin’s office expressed “regret” and described the situation as “an escalation of tensions.”

The decision to send more weapons could “make this conflict more painful and tormenting for Ukraine,” Peskov said, according to Interfax.

U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had announced that the U.K. would be the first Western country to train Ukrainian pilots.

“As part of today’s talks, the Prime Minister will offer to bolster the UK’s training offer for Ukrainian troops, including expanding it to fighter jet pilots to ensure Ukraine can defend its skies well into the future,” Downing Street said in a statement.

“The training will ensure pilots are able to fly sophisticated NATO-standard fighter jets in the future,” the statement added.

Zelenskyy has long been asking his Western allies for fighter jets. President Joe Biden told reporters last month the United States would not be sending F-16s, but France and Poland have indicated they are open to the possibility.

During his speech to a crowded hall in London, Zelenskyy thanked former Prime Minister Boris Johnson personally, saying, “London has stood with Kyiv since day one, from the first seconds and minutes of the full-scale war. Great Britain, you extended your helping hand when the world had not yet come to understand how to react.”

“Boris: you got others united when it seemed absolutely impossible. Thank you,” Zelenskyy said.

Johnson, who was among the lawmakers standing shoulder to shoulder as they listened to the Ukrainian leader, posted a video of Zelenskyy’s speech on Twitter, saying, “Your powerful and passionate appeal must be heard. There is nothing to be lost and everything to be gained by sending planes now.”

Macron in France presented Zelenskyy with a Legion of Honor during his visit to the Élysée Palace on Wednesday evening.

A video showing Macron giving Zelenskyy the medal was posted to Macron’s official Twitter account, with the caption: “Tribute to Ukraine and its people. Tribute to you, dear Volodymyr, for your courage and commitment.”

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