Zelenskyy cheered as he says ‘freedom will win’ during historic UK address


Volodymyr Zelenskyy has received a standing ovation and cheers from parliament as he called on the UK and the West to provide Ukraine with fighter jets during a surprise visit to London.

The Ukrainian president is the first foreign leader to address parliamentarians in Westminster Hall, the oldest part of parliament, since former Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is now in jail, in 2012.

Wearing his usual outfit of military fatigues, Mr Zelenskyy entered the famous hall, where the Queen’s coffin lay in state, to a standing ovation and cheers from MPs and peers.

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He said: “We will always come out on top of evil.

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

He thanked “all the people of England and Scotland, of Wales and Northern Ireland” for their support, on behalf of “our fighters who are now in the trenches under enemy artillery fire”.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak received a handful of mentions from his Ukrainian counterpart, especially as he thanked the PM for providing more equipment to his country.

After saying he will “have the honour” to meet King Charles later, Mr Zelenskyy presented the Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lyndsay Hoyle, with a signed helmet from “one of our most successful” Ukrainian Air Force pilots.

“He’s one of our kings,” he said.

“And the writing on the helmet reads: ‘We have freedom. Give us wings to protect it’.”

He added: “In Britain, the King is an air force pilot and in Ukraine today, every air force pilot is a king.”

Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle (left), holds the helmet of one of the most successful Ukrainian pilots, inscribed with the words "We have freedom, give us wings to protect it", which was presented to him by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as he addressed parliamentarians in Westminster Hall, London, during his first visit to the UK since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Stefan Rousseau/PA)should read: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Sir Lindsay Hoyle held up the pilot’s helmet given to him by Mr Zelenskyy

Appeal for fighter jets

Mr Zelenskyy said he hoped the symbol of the helmet will help for their “next coalition of planes”.

He added: “I appeal to you, and the word is simple, and the most important words: Combat aircraft for Ukraine are wings for freedom.”

The Ukrainian president finished his speech by thanking parliamentarians for their support.

“And leaving British parliament two years ago, I thanked you for delicious English tea,” he said to laughter.

“And I will be leaving the parliament today thanking all of you in advance for powerful English planes.

“God bless Great Britain and long, long live the King. Slava Ukraini.”

Mr Zelenskyy was then driven to Buckingham Palace to have a meeting with the King, who was seen dashing back from an appointment through Westminster.

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Volodymyr Zelenskyy shakes MPS hands after his speech
Volodymyr Zelenskyy greeted his good friend Boris Johnson after the speech
Volodymyr Zelenskyy meets King Charles
Volodymyr Zelenskyy meets King Charles

Boris Johnson gets personal thanks

Former prime minister Boris Johnson, who has a close relationship with Mr Zelenskyy and has been one of Ukraine’s most vocal backers, was spotted in the crowd of politicians.

The Ukrainian leader singled out Mr Johnson, thanking him personally for extending “your helping hand when the world had not yet come to understand how to react”. They then shared a long handshake and brief chat as the Ukrainian left the hall.

Following the speech, Mr Johnson reiterated his calls for the UK to increase its support for Ukraine with longer-range missiles and artillery as well as more tanks and Typhoon jets.

Mr Zelenskyy added to parliament that the UK “all showed your grit and character” and the “strong British character” at the beginning of the war.

“You did not compromise your ideals and thus you didn’t compromise the spirit of this great alliance. Thank you very much,” he added.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses parliamentarians in Westminster Hall, London, during his first visit to the UK since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Winston Churchill’s war chair

He received one of many ovations after saying: “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.”

Rishi Sunak welcomes the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy to 10 Downing Street where he was greeted by staff. Picture by Simon Walker / No 10 Downing Street
Mr Zelenskyy was clapped into Downing Street. Pic: Simon Walker / No 10 Downing Street

Winston Churchill also got a mention as Mr Zelenskyy said two and a half years ago he came to London, when he had just been made president, and sat in Winston Churchill’s armchair “from which war orders were given” at the Churchill War Rooms.

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

“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.”

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Rishi Sunak welcomed Zelenskyy

Surprise visit

The unannounced visit was only Mr Zelenskyy’s second outside Ukraine since Russia invaded last February. He travelled to the United States just before Christmas and stopped off in Poland on the way back.

Moments after Mr Zelenskyy arrived, the UK imposed further sanctions on companies supplying equipment to Russia for the war and Russians connected to “nefarious financial networks”, helping the Kremlin elites maintain wealth and power.

Mr Sunak also announced an “immediate” surge of military equipment for Ukraine, an offer to train 20,000 more Ukrainian troops, plus training for fighter jet pilots so they can fly NATO-standard fighter jets and a training programme for marines.

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