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AYLESBURY, UNITED KINGDOM – MAY 15: (—-EDITORIAL USE ONLY – MANDATORY CREDIT – ‘UKRAINIAN PRESIDENCY/ HANDOUT’ – NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS – DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS—-) British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (L) welcomes Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (R) at the Chequers, the prime minister’s official country residence in Aylesbury, United Kingdom on May 15, 2023. (Photo by Ukrainian Presidency / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Zelensky’s European tour

Zelensky’s European tour


Ukraine’s president has been visiting European capitals in an attempt to secure more support ahead of a renewed fightback against Russia. What is President Zelensky asking for and will it be enough?

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, arrived in London on Monday for talks with Rishi Sunak. Zelensky has been touring European capitals in an attempt to secure more help ahead of a possible counteroffensive against Russia.

After the two-hour meeting at Chequers, the prime minister’s country residence, Zelensky said he wanted to create “a jet coalition”. Although the UK has pledged to train Ukrainian pilots to fly F16s, Downing Street again confirmed there are no plans to supply Ukraine with fighter jets. 

The UK is the second biggest provider of weapons to Ukraine after the United States. 

Last week, the UK announced it would supply long range Storm Shadow cruise missiles. Ahead of Monday’s meeting the UK also pledged “hundreds” of air-defence missiles and long-range attack drones.   

Russia says it takes an “extremely negative” view of Britain supplying weapons to Ukraine. But says it doesn’t think it will materially affect the outcome of the war. 

For months there’s been talk of Ukraine launching a spring offensive – a large-scale counter-attack designed to push Russia’s front lines back and regain occupied territory.

But with summer approaching, there’s been little sign of it.

Following his meeting with Rishi Sunak, Zelensky indicated his troops needed more time. Last week he told the BBC this was because Ukraine still lacked the weapons it needed.

Since the beginning of the war Ukrainian officials have complained that allies have been slow, or even reluctant, to provide some of the military support they need to resist the Russian invasion. 

Zelensky’s tour of European capitals has won him more support. Germany said it would give Ukraine £2.3 billion worth of weapons including tanks and drones. France announced it will send tens of armoured vehicles and train up 6,000 Ukrainian troops. And Italy pledged support for Kyiv for “as long as is necessary.”

But if Ukraine’s counter-offensive fails to dislodge the Russians, President Zelensky is all too aware that some western leaders might encourage him to negotiate with Moscow, something he wants to avoid at all costs.