Volodymyr Zelenskiy has made an emotional appeal to the British government to provide Ukraine with fighter jets, prompting Rishi Sunak, who was previously opposed to the idea, to order a defense ministry review to determine whether the request could be met.
Addressing British lawmakers at Westminster Hall during a surprise visit, Zelenskiy heaped praise on Britain’s leadership across the planet, in a speech that touched on many subjects close to British sentiments such as the Royal family and World War II.
Former British prime minister Boris Johnson called for his government to support Zelenskiy. “It is time to give Ukraine the extra equipment they need to defeat Putin and bring peace to Ukraine, Johnson said.
“The best single use of the 100 Typhoon planes in the UK’s possession is to deploy them now for the protection of Ukraine. The faster we do it the better.”
After evaluating the training of Ukrainian forces on a Challenger 2 tank simulator in Dorset, Sunak stated at a press conference alongside Zelenskiy that “nothing was off the table” The prime minister said the UK contribution of planes was “part of the conversation” but that the most immediate need was for longer-range missiles and tanks, something the UK was delivering and showing global leadership.
A week ago, Sunak ruled out the provision of British jets such as Typhoons on the grounds that training Ukrainian pilots to fly them would take up to five years.
Zelenskiy fought back at such comments, saying: You know, come on, we will be sending you pilots who have already trained for two and a half years.”
The US Congress said last summer it had set aside $100m to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16s, but Sunak’s training offer came after the discussion had been reignited on whether Nato should follow the transfer of tanks by arming Ukraine with aircraft.