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    NewsEuropeIn Paris and London, Zelensky calls for planes "as soon as possible" to fight Russia

    In Paris and London, Zelensky calls for planes “as soon as possible” to fight Russia

    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky demanded Wednesday evening in Paris that his allies deliver fighter planes to him “as soon as possible” to repel Russia, after having done the same in London during a surprise European tour.

    Ukraine needs additional weapons. This is the message hammered home by Volodymyr Zelensky on a visit to London and then to Paris on Wednesday 8 February. This surprise European tour is only the second trip of the Ukrainian president abroad for a year after the United States in December. He must go to Brussels for a summit of the European Union.

    As the first anniversary of the invasion launched by Vladimir Putin on February 24, 2022, which transformed him into a warlord, approaches, the Ukrainian leader was welcomed at the Élysée by his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, who also had invited German Chancellor Olaf Scholz for a late dinner.

    In front of the press, the two European leaders temporized on the question of the planes, a new step in the support for kyiv to which the British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had, earlier in the day in London, seemed to pave the way with caution.

    “It is a strong signal that the President is personally participating in this first meeting of the year of EU Heads of State and Government, a signal of European solidarity”, welcomed Olaf Scholz.

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    “We have very little time”

    The moment is crucial for Ukraine, which is worried about the recent successes of the Russian army in the Donbass and fears a major offensive in the coming weeks.

    “We have very little time,” insisted the Ukrainian president at the Elysee. “The sooner Ukraine gets heavy long-range weaponry, the sooner our pilots get planes, the sooner this Russian aggression will end and we could return to peace in Europe,” he added during the meeting. this flash stage of a journey kept secret until the last moment.

    To Olaf Scholf, who agreed to provide heavy tanks only after a long resistance and is opposed to sending fighters, he assured that it was the “most rational choice today” . The chancellor confined himself to assuring him that the allies would support his country, in particular militarily, “as long as necessary”.

    At his side, Emmanuel Macron promised to continue “the effort” of “deliveries of defense equipment”, according to “operational needs” that he intended to mention during their interview.

    “Toward Victory”

    “We stand alongside Ukraine”, “with the determination to accompany it towards victory and the restoration of its legitimate rights”, said the French president, who also affirmed that he wanted to “build peace” with Volodymyr Zelensky, in particular through an “international conference” involving “the maximum number of partners”.

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    The Parisian dinner contrasted with the pomp of the British visit, where the Ukrainian president addressed the assembled Parliament in the grandiose setting of Westminster Hall, which hosted rare foreign leaders such as the Frenchman Charles de Gaulle in 1960, but also the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II in September.

    “We know that freedom will win, we know that Russia will lose,” insisted the Ukrainian leader in London.

    “I ask you and the world for simple but very important words: fighter jets for Ukraine, wings for freedom”, he said, before concluding with thanks “for delicious English tea” and “in advance for the mighty British planes”.

    So far, Westerners have been reluctant to take this extra step for fear of an escalation with Moscow. But the taboos have been falling one after the other for a year and the supporters of kyiv have already agreed in January to provide heavy tanks.

    London opens the door

    Seeming to open the door, the head of the British government promised to train fighter pilots “to NATO standards”, “to ensure that Ukraine can defend its airspace in the future”. He asked the British army to study possible deliveries of planes, a solution that could only be envisaged “in the long term”.

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    In front of the press, alongside the Ukrainian president, Rishi Sunak acknowledged that aircraft deliveries were “of course part of the conversation” but stressed that the necessary training could take up to three years.

    Smiling, his guest replied that the Ukrainian pilots, given their experience of the war, had already undergone the equivalent of “two and a half years” of training. However, he admitted that the priority for the moment was to receive armor and long-range weapons.

    On these points, London claimed that its Challenger tanks would be operational “next month”, and promised to immediately send longer-range artillery capabilities, without detailing.

    Germany intends to provide with its allies at the end of April a first battalion of its highly anticipated Leopard 2 tanks.

    The Russian Embassy in the UK warned that aircraft deliveries would not go unanswered: “In such a scenario, the bloody harvest of the next round of escalation will be on your conscience, along with the military consequences. and policies for the European continent and the whole world”.

    In recent weeks, the Russian army, supported by the paramilitaries of the Wagner group and reinforced by hundreds of thousands of mobilized civilians, has returned to the attack, in particular in the Donbass, whose Moscow claims the annexation.

    With AFP

    Source: France 24


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