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Ukraine conflict: Zelenskyy appeals for 'wings for freedom', Russia warns of escalation

With UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace instructed to assess what combat aircraft the UK has that could be given to Ukraine, the only viable option would be Tranche 1 Eurofighter Typhoons. (Janes/Patrick Allen)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appealed for Western combat aircraft during a speech to the UK parliament on 8 February, asking to be given “wings for freedom”, as his country prepares to mark a year since Russian forces invaded on 24 February 2022.

Speaking in London, Zelenskyy focused his wider comments on the need for continued military support from the UK and Western allied countries, and on the pressing need for modern Western combat aircraft to augment the Soviet Union-era aircraft currently flown by the Ukrainian Air Force.

“I appeal to you and the world with these most simple and yet important words – ‘Combat aircraft for Ukraine. Wings for freedom,'” Zelenskyy said, before presenting the Speaker of the House of Commons with a Ukrainian Air Force flight helmet inscribed with the words, ‘Give us wings to protect it'.

Prior to Zelenskyy making his prepared remarks, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had announced that the UK would train Ukrainian pilots on the use of “NATO-standard fighter jets”. A few hours after this initial offer, it was reported that Sunak had asked Defence Secretary Ben Wallace to assess what combat aircraft the UK had that could be given to Ukraine, and indeed Zelenskyy's closing remarks to the UK parliament noted, “I will be leaving parliament today thanking all of you in advance for powerful [British] planes”, suggesting that a transfer had been agreed upon.

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