Scholz won’t engage in ‘bidding war’ as Zelensky heads to Brussels

President Zelensky speaks of feeling of bravery during UK visit

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Volodymyr Zelensky is touring Europe after calling for fighter jets in the UK to help his country’s struggle against Russia’s invasion. The Ukrainian President will join an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday to continue his push for more advanced weapons.

Starting his surprise trip in London on Wednesday, Mr Zelensky used a rousing speech to Parliament to urge the UK and Western allies to provide “wings for freedom”.

He then travelled to Paris to meet French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, telling a press conference there is “very little time” to provide the weaponry.

He will be flying with Mr Macron to today’s gathering of EU leaders.

In London, Mr Zelensky warned that without supplies, including jets, ammunition, and long-range missiles, there is a risk of “stagnation” in the conflict.

But ahead of his visit in Paris, the German Chancellor said he would not be drawn into a “public bidding war” over military aid for Kyiv.

He reminded his parliament that European nations had backed Ukraine “financially, with humanitarian aid and with weapons”.

He added: “We will continue to do so as long as necessary. I am taking a clear message to Brussels: Ukraine belongs to the European family.”

Mr Scholz accused his critics of engaging in “a public bidding war according to the principle of battle tanks, submarines, battleships, who can offer more”.

He continued: “Germany won’t get involved.”

In London, Rishi Sunak said “nothing is off the table” when it comes to the question of providing fighter aircraft to Ukraine.

The Prime Minister said sending warplanes is “part of the conversation” about aid to Kyiv.

Downing Street confirmed that Mr Sunak has asked Defence Secretary Ben Wallace to investigate what jets the UK could potentially give.

The UK also announced that it will start training Ukrainian air force pilots as part of a long-term strategy to safeguard Kyiv’s future.

It marked a change in approach, with No 10 previously arguing that it would take too long to train pilots to fly Western fighter planes to have an impact on the war in eastern Europe.

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The Russian Embassy in London warned the UK against supplying warplanes, saying Britain would bear responsibility “for another twist of escalation and the ensuing military-political consequences for the European continent and the entire world”.

The United States and other NATO allies have been wary of becoming more involved in the conflict for fear of provoking the Kremlin.

Mr Zelensky’s trip to the UK included talks with Mr Sunak in Downing Street, a meeting with the King at Buckingham Palace, and a visit to Ukrainian armed forces in Dorset where they are being trained to use Challenger 2 tanks.

It is only his second trip abroad since Moscow’s forces launched their full-scale invasion nearly a year ago.

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