Britain announced it would train Ukrainian fighter pilots during President Volodymyr Zelenskyy‘s visit on Wednesday, who was making only his second foreign trip since Russia launched an invasion of his country almost a year ago.
The U.K. is the first ally to offer to train Ukrainian pilots on NATO aircraft. The decision follows London’s offer of Challenger tanks to Kyiv last month ahead of similar offers from the U.S. and Germany.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Mr. Zelenskyy’s visit was a “testament to the unbreakable friendship between our two countries.” The U.K. has been providing Ukraine with military training since 2014, when an earlier Russian incursion led to the annexation of Crimea.
“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,” Mr. Sunak said in a statement. “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.”
Kyiv has repeatedly sought jet fighter training from the U.S. but the Pentagon has so far deferred their request in favor of artillery, missiles and other weapon systems.
Ukrainian troops arrived in Britain last week to train on the Challenger tanks they will eventually use in combat. Both Russia and Ukraine are expected to launch renewed offensives in disputed regions of eastern and southern Ukraine when the weather and ground conditions permit, with tanks set to play a major role in the fighting.
British officials are expected to soon announce further sanctions on Russian figures who helped President Vladimir Putin build his personal wealth, along with companies profiting from the Kremlin’s war-related defense build-up.
Mr. Zelenskyy’s only previous trip outside the country since Russia invaded on Feb. 24, 2022, had been a quick visit to Washington just before Christmas for talks with U.S. President Biden and an address to a joint session of Congress. The Ukrainian leader was set to address a session of Parliament during his London trip.
• Mike Glenn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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