Updated Feb 8, 2023 - World

Zelensky makes surprise trip to U.K., France as Ukraine seeks more aid

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz meet with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace on February 8 in Paris. Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday paid a surprise visit to France and the United Kingdom, the latter of which has become one of the country's biggest backers in its war against Russia.

Why it matters: It's his second known trip out of Ukraine — and his first to Britain — since the invasion began in February 2022.

The latest: "Today, we started the day with defense issues - in a conversation with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak," Zelensky wrote in a Telegram post, adding that the day continued and ended with defense issues.

  • They have agreed on a "large number of armored vehicles and the supply of long-range weapons" from the U.K. as well as training Ukrainian pilots, according to Zelensky.

Zelensky landed in Paris Wednesday evening and was greeted by French Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu before meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

  • Macron told Zelensky Ukraine will continue to receive military support from France, per CNN.

Driving the news: Before meeting Zelensky at 10 Downing St., U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced Wednesday that Britain would train more Ukrainian troops and fighter jet pilots.

  • Although Ukraine's calls for Western fighter jets have been met with opposition by some European leaders, the training provided by the U.K. would "ensure pilots are able to fly sophisticated NATO-standard fighter jets in the future," per the press release from Sunak's office.
  • Sunak also pledged to expand the training of Ukrainian marines and to provide Ukraine with weapons that have "longer-range capabilities."
  • Zelensky is also expected to address Parliament and meet King Charles III.

What they're saying: "The United Kingdom was one of the first to come to Ukraine's aid," Zelensky said in an earlier post on Telegram. "Today I'm in London to personally thank the British people for their support and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for his leadership."

  • "We will continue to support Ukraine to ensure a decisive military victory on the battlefield this year," Sunak told Parliament Wednesday, the BBC reported.
  • While addressing Parliament, Zelensky praised the U.K. for its support of Ukraine, saying the country was "marching with us to the most important victory of our lifetime."
  • He also reiterated calls for Western fighter jets to be given to Ukraine. "Combat aircraft for Ukraine," he said. "Wings for freedom."

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional developments.

Go deeper