Addressing UK Parliament, Zelensky Thanks Country ‘in Advance’ For Warplanes

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (L) hosts Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zel
Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the British Parliament Wednesday afternoon, expressing his view on military alliances in terms of equipment transfers, and thanking the United Kingdom “in advance” for the gift of its warplanes.

The speaker of the British House of Commons was presented with a signed combat pilot’s helmet by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday afternoon, saying the gift should act as a symbol to help get Western warplanes donated to the Ukrainian war effort. Indicating, perhaps, that he now considers getting British fighter jets is now a fait accompli Zelensky said in his address to the UK Parliament that he was “thanking all of you –in advance — for powerful English planes”.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses British MPs in Westminster Hall, inside the Palace of Westminster, home to Britain’s House of Commons and House of Lords in central London on February 8, 2023 (Photo by STEFAN ROUSSEAU/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The claim may not be so outlandish, given just hours before, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the UK was to start training Ukrainian pilots in flying what have been identified as “NATO-standard fighter jets”, the first country to publicly announce such a development.

Zelensky’s speech was heavy on the subject of military equipment, and framed the whole concept of international alliances in terms of them being vehicles for the transfer of weapons to Ukraine. Throughout his address, the President referred to a “coalition of NLAW and Javelin“, a “coalition of artillery rounds and air defence”, and the “coalition of the planes”.

Talking of his efforts to get deliveries of fighter jets, Zelensky said in London, while addressing Parliament at Westminster Hall — one of the most historic and important medieval halls on earth, which has survived several fires and bombings in its history — that:

[Ukraine] does everything possible and impossible to make the world provide us with modern planes to empower and protect our pilots who are protecting us. And I’m proud of our airforce, and I brought a present from them to you, Great Britain. The helmet of a real Ukrainian pilot, one of our most successful aces… the writing on the helmet reads ‘we have freedom, give us wings to protect it.’

…I appeal to you and the world with simple and yet the most important words, ‘combat aircraft for Ukraine, wings for freedom’. Great Britain, you and us both struggle for peace but instead we are forced to face the [rage?] that seeks to deprive us of everything important in life… thank you for your support… two years ago I thanked you for your delicious English tea. [Today] I leave parliament thanking all of you –in advance — for powerful English planes.

Echoing his last address to the British Parliament, which was made by video link last year, Zelensky also heaped praise on the British as being brave throughout history and having “strong British character”. As before he also made several references to Winston Churchill, the UK wartime leader, saying overcoming evil was central to both the British and Ukrainian political traditions.

The Ukrainian President made a surprise trip to London on Wednesday, flying into Stanstead airport on a British Royal Air Force transport jet where he was met by United Kingdom Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. His schedule for the day included a private meeting with Sunak at Downing Street, talks with British military leaders, the address to Parliament, and an audience with King Charles III.

Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle (L), holds up the helmet of one of the most successful Ukrainian pilots, inscribed with the words “We have freedom, give us wings to protect it”, which was presented to him by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky Photo Stefan Rousseau-by WPA Pool/Getty Images


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