President Zelensky addresses UK Parliament - Dispatch Weekly

February 8, 2023 - Reading time: 4 minutes

​During a surprise visit to the UK, Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky called on the UK and the West to give his country fighter jets, earning him a standing ovation and shouts of support from parliamentarians.

Dressed in his trademark military fatigues, cheers greeted Mr. Zelensky as he approached the lectern in the renowned hall where just a few months ago Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin lay in state.

He stated: “We will always come out on top of evil. We know that freedom will win. We know Russia will lose.”

In the name of “our workers who are now in the trenches under enemy artillery fire,” he expressed gratitude to “all the people of England and Scotland, of Wales, and of Northern Ireland” for their support.

A few remarks on prime minister Rishi Sunak were made by his Ukrainian counterpart, particularly when Mr. Zelensky thanked him for giving his nation new weapons.

Mr. Zelensky gave the speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lyndsay Hoyle, an autographed helmet from “one of our most successful” Ukrainian Air Force pilots after stating that he will “have the honour” to see King Charles later today.

Of the air force pilot, he declared: “He’s one of our kings.”

He said on the helmet it reads: “We have freedom – give us wings to protect it.”  

One of Ukraine’s most outspoken supporters, former prime minister Boris Johnson, who is close to Mr. Zelensky, was spotted among the politicians in the hall.

The Ukrainian president specifically thanked Mr. Johnson for lending “your helping hand when the world had not yet come to grasp how to react” in a personal message.

The president claimed that during the start of the conflict the UK “showed your grit and character” and the “strong British spirit.”

He said: “You didn’t renege on your principles, and as a result, you didn’t renege on the spirit of this great alliance. I sincerely appreciate that.”

After one of several standing ovations, he added: “Do you have a feeling that the evil will crumble once again? I can see in your eyes now we think the same way as you do.

“We know freedom will win. We know. We know Russia will lose.

“And we really know the victory. The victory will change the world. And this will be a change that the world has long needed.”

Winston Churchill was also mentioned because Mr. Zelensky claimed that two and a half years ago, when he had just been elected president, he travelled to London and sat in the chair in the Churchill War Rooms “from which war orders were given.”

He told the crowd, “I certainly felt something, but it is only now that I know what the feeling was – and all Ukrainians know it perfectly well too.

“It is the feeling of how bravery takes you through the most unimaginable hardships to finally reward you with victory

“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your bravery, from all of us.”

At Stansted Airport, where he arrived on an RAF aircraft just before 10.30 am, prime minister Rishi Sunak welcomed the Ukrainian president to the country.

Both leaders arrived at Downing Street in a cavalcade, and when they entered Number 10, the president and his sizable security detail applauded them, something that is often only done for a new prime minister.

Mr. Zelensky commended Britain for its “big support from the first days of full-scale invasion,” after entering No. 10, adding that his nation has “very good relations with Rishi.”

Mr. Zelenskyy has travelled outside of Ukraine just twice since Russia invaded the country in February of last year. Just before Christmas, he made a trip to the US, stopping in Poland on the way back.

This afternoon, Mr. Zelensky will visit Ukrainian troops undergoing training in the UK in addition to meeting King Charles at Buckingham Palace.

Immediately after Mr. Zelensky arrived, the UK placed additional sanctions on businesses that provided Russia with military hardware and Russians linked to “nefarious financial networks,” aiding the Kremlin elites in keeping control of their wealth and influence.

Mr. Sunak will talk about providing Ukraine with additional equipment and training.

DW Staff

David Lintott is the Editor-in-Chief, leading our team of talented freelance journalists. He specializes in covering culture, sport, and society. Originally from the decaying seaside town of Eastbourne, he attributes his insightful world-weariness to his roots in this unique setting.