Ukraine’s Zelensky presses Europe for “wings of freedom”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday made his first visits to France and the UK since his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin ordered a so-called special military operation almost a year ago, pressing his allies for fighter jets, long-range missiles, and faster deliveries.
Making just his second venture abroad since the invasion – after the first one to the US last December – Zelensky met King Charles III, addressed parliament, and enjoyed a ceremony-filled day in London.
His trip to France, however, appeared to have been squeezed in in the eleventh hour. He held a late dinner meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, joined by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
Nevertheless, despite the contrast in formats, Zelensky’s demands weren’t different. He called on his allies to supply more weapons, particularly the “wings of freedom”.
The Ukrainian military is preparing for a possible major Russian offensive as the invasion approaches the one-year mark.
While Zelensky, in his nightly address Sunday, said Russia has thrown more troops into battle, the Governor of the war-torn nation’s Luhansk province recently said the neighbouring nation was pouring in reinforcements for a major offensive that could start after February 15, Al-Jazeera mentioned.
Both Macron and Scholz pledged ongoing support to Ukraine on Wednesday evening. But whether the two nations will commit to supplying fighter jets is still unclear. The two leaders have sometimes been criticised for being too slow to support Ukraine.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said “nothing is off the table” but held back from giving a concrete commitment regarding supplying fighter planes to Ukraine. Britain has also offered to train Ukrainian fighter pilots on top of an existing program that has already prepared 10,000 troops for battle, The Times of Isreal reported.
Meanwhile, other Western allies, including the US, have expressed reluctance towards getting more involved in the conflict by supplying combat aircraft for fear of provoking Russia.
Zelensky is due to meet EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday where he is expected to reiterate his calls for more game-changing weapons.