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Boris Johnson Urges Rishi Sunak To Send Jets To Ukraine After Historic Zelensky Speech

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

3 min read

Boris Johnson has called on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to help bolster Ukraine's defences against Russia by giving President Volodymyr Zelensky the British jets he is asking for.

"There is nothing to be lost and everything to be gained by sending planes now," the former prime minister, who has a close relationship with Zelensky, tweeted on Wednesday afternoon.

Rishi Sunak later said that "nothing is off the table" when it comes to supporting Ukraine, but he is facing calls to hand over fighter jets. 

Zelensky made a historic speech to Parliament on Wednesday as part of a surprise visit to the UK.

In an address to ministers, MPs and peers in Westminster Hall, Ukraine's president thanked the UK for its ongoing support since Vladimir Putin first launched his attempted invasion of Ukraine nearly a year ago. 

"London has stood with Kyiv since day one," Zelensky said.

"From the first seconds and minutes of the full scale war, Great Britain you extended your helping hand when the world had not yet come to understand how to react."

In his speech, he urged the government to help Ukraine further by providing fighter jets.

Speaking towards the end of his address, Zelensky made reference to his previous visit to the UK before the outbreak of the war, adding: "Two years ago, I thanked you for delicious English tea.

"I will be leaving Parliament today, thanking you all in advance for powerful English planes."

The Ukrainian president further issued his plea for RAF fighter jets by gifting Commons speaker Lindsay Hoyle with a pilot's helmet which had the inscription: "We have freedom. Give us wings to protect it."

Sunak announced earlier on Wednesday that the UK would expand its support for Ukraine's war effort by training Ukrainian pilots to fly Nato jets, along with an increase in the amount of military equipment sent by the UK to Ukraine. The UK has already provided a recruit training programme for 10,000 Ukrainian troops in the last six months.

A No 10 spokesperson said today the government hoped to begin training Ukrainian pilots in the spring.

However, the Prime Minister faces calls to go further, with his predecessor Johnson leading the calls for British jets to be sent to the region immediately.

No 10 did not categorically rule out sending British jets in the future, saying this afternoon that "the Prime Minister has tasked the Defence Secretary with investigating what jets we might be able to provide, emphasising the long-term nature of this provision given the length of training required for planes of this type."

Sunak later said that "nothing is off the table" when it comes to supporting Ukraine. Speaking at a press conference alongside Zelensky at an army base following a visit to Ukrainian troops, the Prime Minister said the UK has "been very clear when it comes to the provision of military assistance to Ukraine and nothing is off the table".

The No 10 spokesperson also said Zelensky's speech, which referenced his 2020 visit to the Churchill War Rooms and received rapturous applause, was "clearly a powerful and poignant speech that resonated with the entirety of Parliament".

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