The President of Ukraine, Volodimir Zelensky, wants to get F-16 fighter jets from Europe and the US to defend against Russia. Despite resistance from Washington and Berlin, it appears that London is more open to giving a go-ahead to a future coalition of donor countries of modern Western fighters.
The British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, received at his country residence checkeron the outskirts of London, to the President of Ukraine Volodimir Zelenski, to talk about the war. Zelenski returned to order F-16. “We can’t control the sky” the Ukrainian leader complained in a subsequent press conference. It’s not just about having these planes, it’s pilot training and logistics that make this operation difficult, he said.
Sunak advanced that the UK will start training Ukrainian pilots “relatively soon” after announcing a training program for Ukrainian pilots for F-16s in February. The British prime minister assured that the United Kingdom will be a key part of a coalition of countries that support Ukraine, but qualified that “it is not easy” to develop the ability to transfer combat aircraft.
Ukrainian pilots will begin their initial flight training this summer, adapting a program currently used by British pilots to give them skills applicable to different types of aircraft. This training complements the UK’s efforts in cooperation with other countries to provide Ukraine with F16 fighter jets.
During the meeting, Sunak promised to send Kyiv hundreds of air defense missiles and more unmanned aerial systems, including hundreds of new long-range attack drones with a range of more than 200 km. Last week, the British government confirmed that it will send “Storm Shadows” conventional long-range missiles to Ukraine.
“Your support is a lot for us, you did a lot: you, your government and His Majesty the King (Charles III) and, of course, your people, your society,” the Ukrainian president told the British prime minister before starting the meeting. “We are grateful with all our hearts, to the Ukrainians, to our soldiers, we are grateful,” he added.
Last week, London strengthened Ukraine’s military capabilities by providing Storm Shadow precision missiles. This is the first time Ukraine has received long-range cruise missiles, an important asset to counter ongoing attacks on vital national infrastructure. Over the past year, the UK has trained 15,000 Ukrainian servicemen, increasing their combat readiness.
The talks with the British leader covered “very important issues and urgent support for Ukraine”, which he considered a matter of “security not only for Ukraine, but for all of Europe”. On Saturday, the German government promised Kyiv its biggest military support package yet, with more arms deliveries worth 2.7 billion euros.
On this surprise visit, the Ukrainian president has spoken with Sunak about the meetings he has held with European leaders in recent days, while his country is preparing to intensify military activity in the face of Russian aggression.