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Zelensky asks UK for fighter jets: 'Give us wings to protect freedom.'

by The Kyiv Independent news desk February 8, 2023 4:42 PM 2 min read
President Volodymyr Zelensky meets British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak after arriving in London on Feb. 8. (Zelensky's Facebook page).

Addressing the British parliament, President Volodymyr Zelensky on Feb. 8 asked the U.K. to provide fighter jets to protect Ukraine's freedom.

Zelensky, who is visiting London, presented the helmet of a Ukrainian pilot to the parliament's speaker as a metaphor for Ukraine’s pleas for Western fighter jets.

“We have freedom, give us wings to protect it,” the helmet inscription reads.

“The world needs Ukrainian bravery,” Zelensky said. "We proved together that the world truly helps those who are brave in defending freedom.”

He thanked the U.K. in advance for “the powerful English planes" that Ukraine hopes to get from the West.

“We know Russia will lose,” Zelensky said, as quoted by Bloomberg. “We know victory will change the world. The U.K. is marching with us toward the most important victory of our lifetime. Any aggressor will know what awaits him. Any aggressor is going to lose.”

Editorial: Arming Ukraine won’t escalate war. Reluctance to do so will

Zelensky also told the parliament that longer-range weapons would help Ukraine hit targets deep in Russian-occupied territory.

Before Zelensky landed in London, the U.K.’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that the country would provide longer-range weapons to Ukraine and would train Ukrainian pilots and marines.

Critics argue that allies’ reluctance to supply F-16 fighters and long-range ATACMS missiles to Ukraine will prevent Kyiv from launching a major counteroffensive and liberating the rest of Ukrainian territory. Ukraine’s lack of advanced aircraft and missiles will likely prolong Russia’s war of aggression and result in thousands of deaths.

The HIMARS missiles that Ukraine currently uses have a range of 80 kilometers and cannot reach many of the Russian-occupied areas.

On Feb. 3, the U.S. announced it would supply Ukraine with GLSDB missiles, which can travel for 150 kilometers. However, Bloomberg reported that they are likely to arrive in Ukraine in nine months, which may be too late for repelling a Russian offensive or launching a Ukrainian counter-offensive.

Meanwhile, ATACMS missiles have a range of 300 kilometers.

Oleg Sukhov: What should be done to ensure Ukraine's victory in 2023
We serve no one but our common values
“We truly need popular support, especially during wartime. Being not dependent on a single money bag telling journalists what to do has always been quite a task in Ukraine. In wartime, that’s even more important.”
Illia Ponomarenko, defense reporter
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