'Wings for freedom': Zelenskyy thanks Britain for support as he asks for fighter jets in historic Parliamentary address

8 February 2023, 08:26 | Updated: 8 February 2023, 16:04

Volodymyr Zelenskyy visits Britain
Volodymyr Zelenskyy visits Britain. Picture: Alamy/Getty

By Will Taylor and Emma Soteriou

Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has thanked Britain for standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Ukraine while asking for fighter jets to bring the war to an end.

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Mr Zelenskyy said he looked forward to the day of victory for Ukraine but, until then, "evil" is still present.

He said he was "proud" of his air force but the country needs more planes to fight the war.

"We pay with our lives... with the lives of our heroes who risk life and death every day," he explained.

After Mr Zelenskyy's address, it emerged Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has asked Defence Secretary Ben Wallace to investigate what jets the UK could potentially give to Ukraine.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said it was a "long-term solution" and that "short-term capability" is what Kyiv needs most at the moment.

Mr Zelenskyy described meeting King Charles as "truly special" moment as the pair greeted one another at Buckingham Palace.

The Ukrainian President was dressed in his trademark khaki green military uniform as he was welcomed by Charles with a wide smile and warm handshake in the Palace's 1844 Room.

He previously said he planned to tell the King during their meeting: "In Britain, the King is an air force pilot and in Ukraine today every air force pilot is a king."

Zelenskyy with King Charles
Zelenskyy with King Charles. Picture: Alamy

President Zelensky leaves Buckingham Palace

After presenting the Speaker of the Commons with a Ukrainian pilot's helmet, he made the plea for planes again, saying the words on the side of the gear read: "We have freedom, give us wings to protect it."

He added: "I trust this symbol will help us with our next coalition, the coalition of planes... wings for freedom."

Addressing MPs in Westminster Hall, he also said Ukrainian victory against Russia will deter aggressors around the world.

"We know freedom will win. We know Russia will lose," he said.

King Charles departs Buckingham Palace after Zelensky visit

"And we really know that the victory will change the world and this will be a change that the world has long needed.

"The United Kingdom is marching with us towards the most, I think, the most important victory of our lifetime. It will be a victory over the very idea of the war.

"After we win together, any aggressor, it doesn't matter big or small, will know what awaits him if he attacks international order...

"Any aggressor is going to lose."

Read more: Bodies of British volunteers Chris Parry and Andrew Bagshaw returned in Russia-Ukraine prisoner swap

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Helmet of UKR pilot: 'We have freedom - give us wings to protect it'

The leader repeated calls for the West to step up sanctions against the Kremlin.

He said Britain provided "preventive" support for Ukraine before the invasion "exactly as it will be necessary every time in the future to prevent aggression from happening".

Zelenskyy: 'Any aggressor is going to lose'

Former prime minister Boris Johnson praised Mr Zelenskyy's “magnificent” speech, emphasising Ukraine's need for "the tools to finish the job".

“The faster we do it the better," Mr Johnson told LBC.

"The faster we do it the bigger the saving in life and the bigger the saving in our defence expenditure because, ultimately, once Putin is beaten in Ukraine, the world is going to be a much safer place.

"Helping Ukrainians now is a massive down payment on future security."

Zelenskyy says 'thank you' to Brits as he addresses the UK parliament

Mr Zelenskyy arrived in the UK on Wednesday morning, welcomed by PM Rishi Sunak.

"Thank you so much Rishi for inviting me and for me great honour to be here in Britain," he said.

"And thanks Britain for society first of all for your big support from the first days of full-scale invasion.

"Thank you so much. We are proud really and we have very good relations with Rishi."

Mr Sunak said: "Great pleasure to welcome my friend President Zelensky to the UK.

"We've had a good chat already, we've got lots to discuss over the course of this day about how we can continue to support Ukraine in their struggle against Russia.

"It's a privilege to have you here, Volodymyr. We want to stand by you throughout this conflict and ensure that you're victorious."

Mr Zelenskyy will meet King Charles, address MPs and visit his country's troops that are training to take on Russia by practising within Britain.

It comes as the UK said it will begin training pilots and marines for Ukraine, on top of the soldiers it is already teaching.

A smiling President Zelenskyy was pictured embracing Rishi Sunak after touching down, having flown here via C17.

The two travelled to Downing Street, complete with a heavy security detail, where they posed for photos outside the door to No10 and inside.

The British government also said it will "accelerate" the supply of military equipment to Ukraine.

Read more: Epsom headteacher 'made distressed phone call to sister just minutes before being shot dead by husband'

It has most recently announced it will send 14 Challenger 2 tanks – an effort thought to be largely designed to get Germany to release Leopard 2 tanks for the war – and AS-90 self propelled artillery.

Mr Sunak has visited Kyiv to meet Mr Zelenskyy, who enjoyed a particularly close relationship with Boris Johnson.

Mr Zelenskyy has already visited Washington DC to visit President Joe Biden.

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