Attention to the war conflict between Ukraine and Russia was momentarily shifted this Wednesday from the field of combat due to the meetings of the Ukrainian president, Volodimir Zelensky, with the leaders of the United Kingdom, France and Germany, before whom he insisted on his request for more weapons to his country, in the prelude to another summit, that of the European Union (EU) tomorrow, in Brussels, which will once again have him as the central protagonist.
In what was his second departure from the country since the start of the invasion, Zelensky was in Great Britain, where he met with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, visited Parliament and met King Charles III, and then in France, where he dined with the local president, Emmanuel Macron, and with the head of government. German, Olaf Scholz.
This Thursday, in addition to being the figure of the EU summit, he will have an aside with the Prime Minister of Italy, Giorgia Meloni.
In his conversation with Sunak, Zelensky stressed “the importance of Ukraine receiving the necessary weapons from the allies to stop the Russian offensive.”
Then, in front of British parliamentarians gathered in a packed Westminter Hall, the huge room where Elizabeth II’s funeral was held in September, he insisted that such weapons must include fighters.
“I ask you and the world for simple but very important words: fighter jets for Ukraine, wings for freedom”he claimed.
“We are not excluding anything,” including the delivery of planes, Sunak said at a press conference after visiting with Zelensky a military center in Dorset, in southern England, where the British army trains Ukrainian soldiers.
Sunak indicated that the British Challenger 2 tanks promised by London will be operational “next month”. on Ukrainian soil.
Hitherto reluctant to supply Ukraine with Typhoon and F-35 fighter jets, London now admits it will look into that possibility, though it does not consider it immediate.
“The prime minister has instructed the defense minister to look at what planes we could provide, But this is clearly a long-term solution rather than short-term capacity, which is what Ukraine needs most right now,” a spokesperson said.
Sunak’s ambiguity about what weapons he could bring to kyiv drew an almost immediate retort from Russia: Moscow on Wednesday promised a “response” if Britain sent planes and warned of an escalation in the conflict.
“Russia will find a response to any hostile measures taken by the British side,” the Moscow embassy in London said.s in a statement released by Russian news agencies.
The Russian embassy affirmed that London will bear the responsibility of a “bloody harvest” as well as the “political and military consequences that result” for the European continent and the world.
Zelenski returned to the question of airplanes later, already on the other side of the English Channel, when upon his arrival at the Élysée Palace he insisted that “the sooner Ukraine has long-range heavy weapons, the sooner our pilots have planes, the faster this Russian aggression will end and peace in Europe can return.”
The responses of his interlocutors must have confirmed him: the local Macron told Zelensky that France is “determined to help Ukraine until victory” and ready to continue delivering weapons, and the German Scholz assured that the allies will support kyiv “as long as be necessary”.
Germany recently agreed to send main battle tanks and on Tuesday announced along with the Netherlands and Denmark that they will deliver “at least 100 Leopard 1 A5 tanks” in “the next few months.” But other countries that had committed appear to be delayed in their shipments.
Experts quoted by the AFP agency agree that Russia is preparing a major offensive for late winter or early spring, with the aim of conquering all of Donbas, which it now partially occupies.
Up-to-date maps of Russia have already gone on sale in Moscow bookstores, including regions of Ukraine it claims to have annexed: Zaporizhia, Kherson, Lugansk and Donetsk.
This Thursday, EU heads of state and government will meet in Brussels to face the divisions on immigration and on the common response to the ‘doping’ of countries like the United States or China to their industries in the race for the green transition, but everyone takes it for granted that the presence of Zelenski will leave those issues in a second flat.
Although the presence of the Ukrainian was not officially confirmed for security reasons, it seems a fact that he will be part of the plenary session of the European Parliament and that he will also join the leaders’ summit, the Europa Press agency speculated.
The European leaders will seek to reinforce a message of support for kyiv, beyond the one expressed last week when the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the head of the European Council, Charles Michel, traveled to the country at war.
Now, the Twenty-seven will reiterate their commitment to stay together with Ukraine “as long as it takes”, they stress from Brussels, not only through financial, political and military support, but also with a new package of sanctions on which they are already working – it would be the tenth – and looking for legal formulas to finance the reconstruction of Ukraine with the resources confiscated from Russia or ensuring that those responsible will be held accountable before international justice.
Ukraine’s urgency to join the European Union will also be part of the leaders’ debate at the summit, although the bloc insists that the accession process requires steps that are still missing.
The Twenty-seven await a first oral report from the Community Executive in the spring and a second, more formal evaluation in the autumn of the progress of the Zelenski government before analyzing the situation again.
In the Belgian capital, Zelenski will also be alone with Meloni, as confirmed by the Italian agency AdnKronos, citing government sources. In the middle of last month, the President of Ukraine confirmed that Meloni would travel to kyiv “very soon”, but that visit has not yet happened.