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Ukraine updates: Zelenskyy makes surprise trip to UK

Published May 15, 2023last updated May 16, 2023

The Ukrainian president met British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, after weekend talks in Italy, Germany and France. The tour was aimed at securing new weapons for a counteroffensive against Russia. Follow DW for more.

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, left, welcomes Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at Chequers
Zelenskyy met Sunak at Chequers, the country residence of UK prime ministersImage: Carl Court/Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said  he was "very positive" about creating a "jets coalition" in the war against Russia, with a decision expected "in the closest time".

He spoke atter meeting Rishi Sunak at the British prime minister's country estate of Chequers outside London.

The visit is part of a tour of several key European allies to garner military support ahead of an expected Ukrainian counteroffensive against Russian forces.

The Ukrainian leader landed by helicopter at Chequers, the official country retreat of British prime ministers, where he gave Sunak a bear hug. He also thanked Britain for the support it had provided to Ukraine so far.

"We're thankful from all our hearts, from Ukrainians, from our soldiers, we are thankful," Zelenskyy told Sunak. "And this is a privilege to be here."

Sunak said Britain would provide Ukraine with hundreds of air defence missiles and further unmanned aerial systems, including new long-range attack drones with a range of more than 200 km, to be delivered "over the coming months".

"The UK will remain steadfast in supporting Ukraine and its people to defend itself...it is important for the Kremlin to also know that we are not going away. We are here for the long term," Sunak said/

His spokesman said Britain had no plans to send fighter jets to Ukraine, but the country will start to train Ukrainian pilots this summer.

Zelenskyy's latest trip outside Ukraine has taken him to Paris, Rome, Berlin, and the western German city of Aachen, where earlier on Sunday he received the prestigious Charlemagne prize to him and the Ukrainian people for their efforts to counter the Russian invasion.

Scholz pledges support for Ukraine 'as long as needed'

The prize, a non-monetary and largely symbolic award, was set up in 1950 to celebrate efforts toward European unification.

He met German Chancellor Olaf Scholz earlier on Sunday, and French President Emmanuel Macron later. A Luftwaffe jet had flown Zelenskyy to the German capital from Rome, where on Saturday he met Pope Francis and Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni.

Here are some of the other notable developments concerning Russia's war in Ukraine on Monday, May 15:

Zelenskyy returns to Ukraine after Europe tour

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy returned to Ukraine following a busy trip that took him across Europe to garner more support from allies in Rome, Berlin, Paris and London.

"We are returning home with new defence packages: more ammunition, stronger weapons for the front, more protection for our people, more political support," Zelenskyy summed up the trip in a video message recorded on a train on Monday.

In all the talks held in Italy, Germany, France and Britain, Zelenskyy said he had discussed his peace formula for a complete withdrawal of Russian troops from the territory of Ukraine.

His trip had helped to bolster support for Ukraine joining the EU, Zelenskyy said. "There is more understanding for NATO accession, it will come, it is inevitable," the Ukrainian president added.

Russia says it downed British-provided missile

Russia's defense ministry says it has downed a long-range Storm Shadow missile fired by Ukrainian forces that had been provided by the UK.

"Air defense systems intercepted seven HARM anti-radar missiles, one Storm Shadow long-range cruise missile" as well as 10 projectiles fired by the Western-supplied (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System) HIMARS, Russian defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said, referring to the last 24 hours.

Russian missile attack kills four in Ukraine

Russian missile strikes hit a hospital in eastern Ukraine and killed four people, officials say. Ukraine's national police force said attacks on the front-line city of Avdiivka was one of a wave of attacks that hit 57 residential buildings in 13 localities.

"Four people died as a result of a missile attack on Avdiivka. Russians attacked the city with missiles this morning, hitting a hospital," Donetsk regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said.

Kremlin slams Macron claim Russia is China's vassal

The Kremlin has criticized comments by French President Emmanuel Macron, who said Russia was becoming subservient to China as a result of the war in Ukraine.

"We categorically disagree with this. Our relations with China have the character of a special, strategic partnership," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a press briefing.

Peskov said Macron's comments reflected "an absolutely wrong understanding of what is happening."

Macron said in an interview published on Sunday that Russia, isolated by its offensive in Ukraine, had "entered a form of subservience with regards to China." Macron added that Russia had already suffered a "geopolitical defeat."

Ukraine lauds progress near Bakhmut

Ukraine has hailed its troops' advances in areas near the frontline town of Bakhmut as an important beginning in Kyiv's latest push to drive out invading Russian forces from its territory.

"The advance of our troops in the Bakhmut direction is the first success of the offensive in the course of the operation to defend Bakhmut," said the commander of the Ukrainian ground forces, Oleksandr Syrskyi.

However, Ukrainian deputy defense minister Hanna Maliar said Russia's goals remained unchanged and that new forces were being sent to the outskirts of Bakhmut. 

High-ranking Chinese envoy visits Ukraine

Top Chinese envoy Li Hui is set to begin a tour of Ukraine in a trip Beijing says is aimed at examining a "political settlement" to the war in Ukraine.

Li, China's special representative for Eurasian affairs and a former ambassador to Russia, was also set to visit Poland, France, and Germany on the trip over several days.

"The visit ... is a testament to China's efforts towards promoting peace talks, and fully demonstrates China's firm commitment to peace," foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a daily briefing.

Li is the most senior Chinese official to visit Ukraine since Russia invaded in February 2022. 

More DW coverage on Russia's war in Ukraine

Russian occupiers have ordered the evacuation of the city of Enerhodar, close to the threatened Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Residents have reported looting and fears of forced deportations. 

The Ukrainian government doesn't want its athletes competing against Russians. But some think that sends out the wrong message and risks surrendering the platform of international sport to Russian propaganda.

rc/rt (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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