Ukrainian President Zelensky Thanks UK For Support In Historic Westminster Speech
In a historic speech in Westminster, the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky gave his thanks to the UK for its support in its battle against Russia.
The Ukrainian leader made the speech in Westminster Hall during his first visit to the UK since Russia launched its illegal invasion of his country in February last year.
Speaking to MPs, peers and journalists on Wednesday, Zelensky thanked the UK for its support during the war, adding: "London has stood with Kyiv since day one. 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."
"We know freedom will win, we know Russia will lose, and we really know that victory will change the world and this will be a change the world has long needed," he said.
"The United Kingdom is marching with us towards, I think, the most important victory in our lifetimes. It will be a victory over the very idea of war."
He added: "After we win together, any aggressor, it doesn't matter big or small, will know what awaits him if he attacks international order. Any aggressor who will try to push the boundaries by force, who will inflict destruction and death, who will try to endure his dictatorship at the expense of other people's blood in criminal and unprovoked wars as the Kremlin does. Any aggressor is going to lose."
Zelensky made his speech to a packed Westminster Hall, with MPs and ministers standing on the stairs to watch on as the Ukrainian president extended his thanks on behalf of the "brave and the warriors" helping defend the country.
And paying tribute to Boris Johnson, he said: "You got others united when it seemed absolutely impossible, thank you."
Zelensky added that when asked how he felt to sit in the chair of Winston Churchill during a visit to the War Rooms earlier today, he told MPs: "All Ukrainians know it perfectly well too. It is the feeling of how bravery through the most unimaginable hardships to finally reward you with victory."
The Ukrainian president also pressed his case for the UK to provide his country with RAF fighter jets as he gifted Commons speaker Lindsay Hoyle with a pilot's helmet which had the inscription: "We have freedom. Give us wings to protect it".
His comments will add further pressure on Rishi Sunak to U-turn on his refusal to provide advanced aircraft to the Ukrainian airforce, with a Downing Street spokesperson claiming it would be too time consuming and complicated to train pilots to use them.
But in his final comments, 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."
It is only the second foreign trip made by Zelensky since the Ukraine war began, following a visit to the United States in December.
Zelensky is also set to visit military sites in the UK where Ukrainian troops are being offered training by the British military and will also have a private audience with King Charles.
It comes after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak vowed to continue offering weapons and training to the Ukrainian forces, saying at PMQs earlier: "We will continue to support Ukraine to ensure a decisive military victory on the battlefield this year."
The pair had held meetings earlier today in Downing Street where they discussed plans for an "immediate surge" in weapon deliveries and moves to impose further sanctions on the Russian state.
Westminster Hall is a historic setting for speeches by foreign leaders, with former Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi being the last world leader to speak to parliamentarians in 2012.
Speaking to PoliticsHome, Conservative MP Andrea Leadsom, said: "I think it demonstrates the strong relationship that has developed between our two countries – it is an honour and a pleasure to welcome him to Parliament, and I know the UK will continue to be a key partner for Ukraine, fully backing their resolve to defeat Russian aggression."
And senior Labour MP Hilary Benn, added: "The House of Commons has been steadfast in its support for Ukraine since Russia’s invasion, and President Zelensky will receive a very warm welcome today from MPs."
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