Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on February 8 made a strong appeal to Western allies to provide his country with fighter jets to combat Russian forces during a visit to the United Kingdom and France on his second known trip abroad since Moscow's unprovoked invasion of his country one year ago.
"I appeal to you and the world, with simple and yet most important words -- combat aircraft for Ukraine, wings for freedom," Zelenskiy said, speaking in a historic address to the British Parliament.
"We know freedom will win, we know Russia will lose," he told lawmakers.
"The United Kingdom is marching with us towards the most... important victory of our lifetime. It will be a victory over the very idea of the war."
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said later at a joint news conference that "nothing is off the table" in terms of military aid for Ukraine.
Fighter jets for Ukraine were "part of the conversation," Sunak added.
After speaking to Parliament, Zelenskiy met with King Charles III and then accompanied Sunak on an inspection of Ukrainian soldiers training in southwest England to operate British Challenger 2 tanks, which Sunak said will be deployed in Ukraine next month.
Thanking Sunak for help from the United Kingdom, Zelenskiy also appealed for long-range missiles, saying that unless Ukraine gets them or fighter jets, "there will be stagnation" and Russians will move into Ukrainian territory.
Earlier, Britain announced an immediate surge of military equipment to Ukraine to help it fend off Russian attacks and pledged to train its pilots to ensure they are able to fly NATO-standard fighters in the future, a government statement said.
But a spokesperson for Sunak told reporters no decision had been made on supplying Ukraine with combat aircraft.
Zelenskiy arrived later on February 8 in France for a late dinner meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
Macron said ahead of the meeting in Paris that France is "determined to help Ukraine to victory and the reestablishment of its legitimate rights," adding France would "continue the efforts" to deliver arms to Kyiv.
Zelenskiy urged France and Germany not to hesitate in shipping weapons, saying they have the "potential to be game changers" in the course of the war.
"The sooner we get heavy long-range weapons and our pilots get modern planes...the quicker this Russian aggression will end," he said.
For months, Kyiv has been urging the West to increase its military support, including the possibility of providing fighter jets.
The United States, Britain, Germany, and other Western allies recently relented and approved sending hundreds of battle tanks, armored vehicles, and other heavy weaponry to Ukraine amid expectations that Russia is gearing up for a new major offensive, possibly as early as this month.
Washington has so far also rejected supplying any F-16 warplanes to Ukraine, but some allies, such as Poland, have said they could be open to the idea.
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Britain also announced additional sanctions targeting individuals and companies that “are profiting from the Kremlin’s war machine.” The sanctions targeted Russian drone manufacturer CST; RT-Komplekt, a Russian producer of helicopter parts; and software developer Topaz.
“These new sanctions accelerate the economic pressure on [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, undermining his war machine to help Ukraine prevail,” British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said.
Oil executive Nikolai Yegorov and Sergei Rudnov, owner of the pro-Kremlin Regnum news agency, were also targeted.
In all, over 1,300 individuals and entities have been sanctioned by Britain over the invasion of Ukraine.
Zelenskiy’s visit to Britain and France is his first since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022. He visited the United States and addressed Congress in December. According to some reports, Zelenskiy might attend a European Union summit this week in Brussels.
Scholz said leaders at the summit on February 9 would send a strong signal of solidarity with Kyiv.
"I am taking a clear message to Brussels: Ukraine belongs to the European family," said Scholz in Paris on February 8.
Zelenskiy’s trip came hours after U.S. President Joe Biden, in his annual State of the Union address to Congress on February 7, pledged U.S. support for Ukraine’s war against invading Russia for “as long as it takes.”
In a post on Twitter, Zelenskiy thanked Biden for his “powerful words of support.”
“Our values are the same, our common goal is victory,” Zelenskiy wrote.
Fierce fighting in the eastern part of Ukraine has spurred Kyiv to ask its allies for heavy weaponry given Russia's size and equipment advantage. Longer range weapons would allow Ukraine to push back harder than it has up to now, officials say.
On February 7, Germany, the Netherlands, and Denmark pledged to provide more than 100 Leopard 1 battle tanks. German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said 20 to 25 of the tanks would arrive by summer, about 80 by the end of the year, and at least 100 more in 2024. The three countries also promised to provide necessary training and support for the tanks.
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, Ukrainian lawmaker Roman Kostenko, head of the parliament’s National Security Committee, said Russia was planning a new offensive in the eastern Donbas region and possibly in another “diversionary” area.
“The enemy is preparing an offensive,” Kostenko said. “Whether he will be able to attack or not remains to be seen.”
Russian forces carried out air strikes in the city of Kharkiv during the night, the head of the regional administration, Oleh Synyehubov, said. The strikes targeted an industrial area of the city and ignited a large fire. No casualties were reported.
Russian military officials said the strike targeted a “workshop” for upgrading drones.
With reporting by Reuters