Sun, 26 Mar 2023

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived in Paris Wednesday evening for his first visit to an EU member state since the Russian invasion almost one year ago.

UPDATE: 21:30 GMT (Paris+1:00)

Zelensky touched down at Paris Orly airport aboard a UK government plane from London. He is due to hold a late dinner meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, joined by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

According to an interview in the right-leaning Le Figaro, Zelensky believes Macron has undergone a significant change on his stance towards Ukraine after seeking to keep channels open to Russia in the early phase of the conflict.

This comes as Zelensky, dressed in his usual green fatigues, held talks with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak this Wednesday and King Charles III following an address to the UK parliament on what is only his second overseas trip since the war began.

"The United Kingdom was one of the first to come to Ukraine's aid," Zelensky said on social media, adding he wanted to "personally thank" the British people.

The UK government said it would offer advanced training for Ukrainian fighter jet pilots and marines, as Western allies debate stepping up military aid for Kyiv against a feared new Russian offensive in the east.

British MPs applauded Zelensky as he addressed members of the lower and upper houses in the UK parliament's ancient Westminster Hall.

The Ukrainian president thanked the UK for its support and pledged that "freedom will win".

After meeting Zelensky, Sunak told parliament the UK would continue "to support Ukraine to ensure decisive military victory on the battlefield, this year".

"[Russian President] Vladimir Putin's aggression cannot be seen in any way to have been successful, and that's why we have accelerated and increased our support militarily for Ukraine," Sunak said.

Ahead of the trip, President Joe Biden promised that the United States would support Ukraine for "as long as it takes."

'Ukraine belongs to Europe'

Meanwhile, Britain announced a fresh round of sanctions targeting organisations relied on by the Russian military, yet Putin remains defiant.

Updated maps of Russia have reportedly gone on sale in Moscow bookstores that include four annexed Ukrainian regions: Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Lugansk and Donetsk.

Putin regularly refers to them as "our historical lands".

Ahead of the 24 February anniversary of Russia's invasion, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said it was clear that Moscow would not win and assured Ukraine its future was in the EU.

"Putin will not achieve his goals - not on the battlefield and not through a dictated peace. That much, at least, is certain after a year of war," Scholz said in a speech to parliament.

"Ukraine belongs to Europe, its future lies in the European Union. And this promise holds true," Scholz said.

EU promises continued support for Ukraine at Kyiv summit EU says it will train double the number of Ukrainian soldiersNATO fighter jets

After the Downing Street talks and his speech in parliament's historic Westminster Hall, Zelensky is due to join Sunak on a visit to Ukrainian troops receiving military training in southwest England.

Britain has already trained 10,000 Ukrainian troops "to battle readiness" over the past six months and will train a further 20,000 this year.

The training will "ensure pilots are able to fly sophisticated NATO-standard fighter jets in the future," although Western countries have so far ruled out sending jets themselves.

On Tuesday, Moscow said that Russian forces were advancing towards Bakhmut and Vugledar - two key centres of fighting in the eastern Donetsk region of Ukraine, now the flashpoint of the war.

This comes as Zelensky is makes a stop-over in Paris this evening, ahead of going to Brussels on Thursday to meet with EU leaders, as the European Union has committed to finding a way to fast-track Ukraine's accession to the bloc.

Originally published on RFI

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