President Zelensky Visiting UK For The First Time Since Russian Invasion
President Zelensky is visiting the UK on Wednesday (Alamy)
The president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, will arrive in the UK today for the first time since Russia invaded his country in February 2022.
Zelensky will meet with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in Downing Street on Wednesday morning and then address Parliament in the afternoon.
The Ukrainian president will also have an audience with King Charles III at Buckingham Palace.
Foreign leaders rarely make speeches in UK Parliament, but Zelensky did previously make an address remotely via videolink in March 2022, shortly after the war with Russia started.
Both Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have made visits to Ukraine as prime ministers since the full-scale invasion and the UK has supported the country in its war with Russia by sending weapons and military equipment.
Zelensky's surprise visit comes as Sunak plans to extend military training provided in the UK to Ukrainian pilots and marines.
The new programme will give Ukrainian pilots the skills to fly NATO-standard fighter 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.
Sunak said in a statement: “President Zelensky’s visit to the UK is a testament to his country’s courage, determination and fight, and a testament to the unbreakable friendship between our two countries.
"Since 2014, the UK has provided vital training to Ukrainian forces, allowing them to defend their country, protect their sovereignty and fight for their territory.
"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.
"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."
As well as addressing Parliament, Zelensky and his team will also meet defence and security chiefs to discuss the logistics of the training programme.
Labour MP Alex Sobel and Tory MP Bob Seeley, co-chairs of the Ukraine all-party parliamentary group, said: "It's a great honour for the UK parliament to host an in person visit by President Zelensky in the run up to the first anniversary of the Russian invasion.
"Parliament is united in its support for Ukraine."
In the last year, South African president Cyril Ramaphosa is the only other foreign leader to have addressed UK Parliament on a two-day state visit in September – the first state visit since King Charles III took the throne.
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe