Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday met King Charles at Buckingham Palace.
Speaking to Parliament earlier, the Ukrainian President again urged his allies to send him warplanes.
“Two years ago, I left Parliament thanking you for the delicious English tea. Today I will leave Parliament thanking all of you in advance for powerful English planes,” said Volodymyr Zelensky in an address to MPs.
The surprise trip to Britain is the first time Mr Zelensky has visited the country since the start of Russia’s invasion and only his second foreign trip in wartime.
Zelensky on Wednesday urged Britain to deliver warplanes to ensure a victory that would “change the world.”
powerful English planes.”
After the United States, Britain is the largest donor of military assistance to Ukraine. It has committed $2.8 billion so far and has pledged to match that in 2023, according to a recent parliamentary briefing paper. The United Kingdom is also leading on Operation Interflex, an initiative with other allies that brings Ukrainian troops to Britain for training.
But sending fighter jets is something Western allies have been reluctant to do.
After a stop at 10 Downing Street and his address to Parliament, Zelensky was scheduled to meet with King Charles III at Buckingham Palace later Wednesday afternoon.
He is set to head Wednesday evening to Paris, where he will meet with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, according to a statement from the French Embassy in Washington.
Zelensky may also visit Brussels on Thursday, according to various media outlets.
His first international trip was in December, when he traveled to Washington to address a joint meeting of Congress and rally for continued American support. He stopped in Poland on his return home to Ukraine.
Such is the security operation around these trips that Downing Street announced his visit only a few hours before the aircraft carrying Zelensky arrived at London’s Stansted Airport on Wednesday — a moment broadcast live on the BBC.
During his speech to Parliament, hethanked Britain for its support and predicted victory over Russia with its help.
“We know freedom will win; we know Russia will lose,” he said as lawmakers broke out into thunderous applause. “We know the victory will change the world, and this will be the change that the world has long needed,” he said. “The United Kingdom is marching with us towards the most important victory of our lifetime.”
“In Britain, the king is an air force pilot, and in Ukraine today, every air force pilot is a king,” Zelensky said. Charles trained as a jet pilot with the Royal Air Force in the 1970s.
“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 then presented the helmet of a Ukrainian pilot to the speaker of the House of Commons, inscribed with the phrase: “We have freedom, give us wings to protect it.”
Britain sees itself as playing a leading role on Ukraine, and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, like his predecessors, is an outspoken supporter. On Wednesday, Sunak pledged further military support, including the training of Ukrainian fighter pilots.
“As part of today’s talks, the Prime Minister will offer to bolster the U.K.’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.
That is still short of the requests from Zelensky for fighter jets.
Boris Johnson, former British prime minister, has argued that the West should be more willing to send Ukraine sophisticated planes. He was not speaking on behalf of the British government.
“Give the Ukrainians the tools to finish the job. Give them the deep fire artillery systems, give them the tanks, give them the planes, because they have a plan. They know what they need to do,” he said in a recent speech at the Atlantic Council in Washington.
Although this was the first time the Ukrainian leader addressed the British Parliament in person, he did speak to lawmakers last year via video and received a standing ovation.
Zelensky was also meeting Wednesday with Britain’s the defense and security chiefs as part of a visit that the prime minister described as “testament to the unbreakable friendship” between the countries.
“Since 2014, the U.K. has provided vital training to Ukrainian forces, allowing them to defend their country, protect their sovereignty and fight for their territory,” Sunak said.
Downing Street said Britain would announce further sanctions on Wednesday that will target “those who have helped [Russian President Vladimir] Putin build his personal wealth, and companies who are profiting from the Kremlin’s war machine.”