President Zelensky lands in UK to meet King Charles

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky landed in the UK early Wednesday for a surprise visit that is expected to include a trip to Buckingham Palace to meet with King Charles III.

The 45-year-old leader was greeted by UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on the tarmac of London Stansted airport after arriving on a UK Royal Air Force plane for only his second trip out of Ukraine in nearly a year of war.

“Welcome to the UK, President @ZelenskyyUa,” Sunak tweeted along with a photograph of the two leaders embracing.

He included the widely shared hashtag #SlavaUkraini, meaning “glory to Ukraine,” along with ones of each nation’s flag.

Zelensky also posted emojis of both flags on Facebook alongside a different photo of him in his traditional military-colored clothing being greeted by a sharp-suited Sunak.

Photo Rishi Sunak shared of him greeting Zelensky at UK airport Wednesday.
Sunak shared a photo of him greeting the Ukraine president, writing: “Welcome to the UK.”
Twitter / @RishiSunak

“The United Kingdom was one of the first to come to Ukraine’s aid. And today I’m in London to personally thank the British people for their support and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for his leadership,” he wrote.

Zelensky was later photographed with the UK leader at 10 Downing Street. UK officials said he will also address Parliament and meet with King Charles III.

Photo Zelensky shared of him being greated by Rishi Sunak soon after arriving for surprise UK visit Wednesday.
Zelensky also shared a pic of him arriving in military clothing and being greeted by the sharp-suited UK leader.

That meeting will be this afternoon at Buckingham Palace, according to The Telegraph, which noted that members of the royal family have been “vocal supporters” of Ukraine’s plight during the war.

Sunak’s office also said Zelensky will meet UK military leaders and visit Ukrainian troops training in Britain.

King Charles III and Camilla and Queen Consort Camilla late last month.
Zelensky will meet King Charles III, with UK media reports saying it will be at Buckingham Palace this afternoon.

Sunak said the visit was “a testament to his country’s courage, determination and fight, and a testament to the unbreakable friendship between our two countries.”

The visit was the Ukraine leader’s first to the UK since Russia invaded late last February, and only his second out of the country in that time, following his trip to Washington D.C. in late December.

Zelensky had, however, addressed Britain’s Parliament remotely in March, two weeks after the start of the invasion, when he famously echoed World War II leader Winston Churchill’s famous “never surrender” speech, vowing that Ukrainians “will fight till the end at sea, in the air. We will continue fighting for our land, whatever the cost.”

The UK is one of the biggest military backers of Ukraine and has sent the country at least $2.5 billion in weapons and equipment.

Sunak also announced that Britain will train Ukrainian pilots on “NATO-standard fighter jets.” More than 10,000 Ukrainian troops have also been trained at British bases, some on the Challenger 2 tanks that Britain is sending.

President Volodymyr Zelensky arrives at 10 Downing Street with Rishi Sunak.
The UK is already one of Ukraine’s biggest backers and is now giving extra training to troops.
AFP via Getty Images

“I am proud that today we will expand that training from soldiers to marines and fighter jet pilots, ensuring Ukraine has a military able to defend its interests well into the future,” Sunak said.

“It also underlines our commitment to not just provide military equipment for the short term, but a long-term pledge to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Ukraine for years to come.”

There is increasing expectation that he will next head to Brussels, where European Union leaders are gathering for a summit Thursday — enabling him to meet with all major leaders of the 27-nation bloc in one day.

The EU’s legislature has slated a special plenary session in Brussels for Thursday in the hopes that Zelensky will be there.

The London visit came as Russian forces blasted areas of eastern Ukraine with more artillery bombardments, Ukrainian officials said Wednesday, in what Kyiv authorities believe is part of a new thrust by the Kremlin’s forces before the invasion anniversary on Feb. 24.

“They need to have something to show before their people, and have a major desire to do something big, as they see it, by this date,” Ukraine’s national security chief Oleksiy Danilov said Tuesday.

Russian forces over the past day launched major shelling attacks on areas near the front line in Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region, killing a 74-year-old woman and wounding a 16-year-old girl in the border town of Vovchansk, local Gov. Oleh Syniehubov said.

Ukraine believes Russian President Vladimir Putin wants complete control of the Donbas, an expansive industrial area bordering Russia, to give him a major battlefield success after months of setbacks.

With Post wires

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