Britain promises more weapons for Ukraine as Zelensky continues his tour of Europe

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, left, and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak meet at the latter’s official country retreat in England on Monday.
(Carl Court / Pool Photo)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, on a whirlwind European tour, pressed Britain on Monday to join a “fighter jet coalition” that would help strengthen his country’s aerial capabilities, but instead secured a commitment of hundreds more missiles and attack drones.

Zelensky landed by helicopter at Chequers, the British leader’s official country retreat, and was greeted by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak with a handshake and a hug. It’s Zelensky’s second trip to the U.K. since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

This is the fifth European country Zelensky has visited in the last three days, after Italy, the Vatican, Germany and France. He is seeking more military aid as Ukraine prepares a long-anticipated spring offensive to retake territory that Russia has seized.


Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow viewed London’s promise to supply Kyiv with more weapons “extremely negatively” but that the supplies wouldn’t drastically change the course of the war.

“Britain aspires to be at the forefront among countries that continue to pump weapons into Ukraine,” Peskov said. “We repeat once again, it cannot yield any drastic and fundamental influence on the way the special military operation” — Russia’s euphemism for its war on Ukraine — “is unfolding. But, definitely, it leads to further destruction, further action.... It makes this whole story for Ukraine much more complicated.”

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Zelensky said one of the missions of his European trip was to build a “fighter jet coalition” to provide Ukraine with vital aerial capabilities. He said more work was needed on that front.

Although the U.K. will not provide the planes, the prime minister said the country would join the coalition and begin a previously announced training program for Ukrainian fighter pilots as soon as this summer.

Britain has become one of Ukraine’s major military allies, sending Kyiv short-range missiles and Challenger tanks and training 15,000 Ukrainian troops on British soil. Last week Britain announced that it had sent Ukraine Storm Shadow cruise missiles, which have a range of more than 150 miles — the first known shipment of such weaponry, which Kyiv has long sought from its allies.

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Sunak’s office said it was giving Ukraine hundreds more air-defense missiles, as well as “long-range attack drones” with a range of more than 120 miles.


“This is a crucial moment in Ukraine’s resistance to a terrible war of aggression they did not choose or provoke,” Sunak said. “They need the sustained support of the international community to defend against the barrage of unrelenting and indiscriminate attacks that have been their daily reality for over a year.... We must not let them down.”

Sunak will also push allies to deliver more support to Ukraine at a meeting of Group of 7 leaders in Japan later this week, his office said.

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As Zelensky visited European capitals, Russia stepped up attacks across Ukraine with drones and missiles over the weekend. On Sunday, Russia shelled two communities in the northern border region of Sumy, the region’s military administration said in a statement on its official Telegram channel. It said 109 explosions were recorded.

Zelensky’s office said Monday that shelling had killed nine civilians and injured 19 in the last day. Six of the deaths were in the Kherson region. Two civilians were killed in Chuhuiv in the Kharkiv region and one in Prymorsk, which is on the Azov Sea coast about 12 miles from Russian-occupied Berdyansk.

The presidential office also reported that Marhanets, which lies across the river from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, was shelled.

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In the Russian-occupied city of Luhansk, Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti reported that the acting regional interior minister, Igor Kornet, was injured in an explosion in a barbershop. Luhansk’s separatist head, Leonid Pasechnik, is quoted as saying the explosion was a bomb.


Assassination attempts and sabotage attacks have increased in Russian-occupied territory as well as Russia proper. Russian authorities often blame Ukrainian forces but Kyiv rarely acknowledges such attacks.

Zelensky traveled to Britain from Paris, where he met Sunday with French President Emmanuel Macron and secured a pledge of light tanks, armored vehicles and air defense systems.

About 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers would receive training in France this year and nearly 4,000 others in Poland, Macron’s office said.

Speaking Monday on French television network TF1, Macron said training on French fighter jets such as the Mirage 2000 “can start now” but rejected the idea of France delivering warplanes to Ukraine.

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Zelensky also met with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Sunday. It was his first visit to Berlin since the start of the invasion and came a day after the German government announced a new package of military aid for Ukraine worth more than $3 billion, including tanks, antiaircraft systems and ammunition.

Modern Western hardware is considered crucial if Ukraine is to succeed in its planned counteroffensive.


During his European trip, Zelensky said Ukraine would aim to liberate Russian-occupied areas within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders, and not attack Russian territory.

Among areas Russia still occupies are the Crimean peninsula and parts of eastern Ukraine with mainly Russian-speaking populations.