Many different countries support Ukraine, providing it with humanitarian, economic, and military assistance. To thank these allies and seek even more support, from May 13 to 15, President Volodymyr Zelensky conducted working trips to Ukraine’s main allies.
This is the reason why in mid-May Zelensky paid an official visit to Italy, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom. As a result of these meetings, European leaders agreed to transfer new large packages of military assistance to Kyiv. They also announced the creation of a coalition for the supply of Western fighters and the training of Ukrainian pilots.
This tour around Western Europe has become one of the most successful in terms of securing military aid arrangements. Zelensky’s achievements during this trip include the announcement of the creation of a coalition of fighters and tanks. The fighter coalition is a crucial step in order to start a counteroffensive against Russia. As a part of this coalition, the UK will train F-16 pilots and, together with other coalition members, transfer fighters to Ukraine.
On May 13, Zelensky met with Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni at Chigi Palace in Rome. They had a working lunch. The President of Ukraine said that they discussed Italy’s military assistance to Ukraine and its support for the Ukrainian “peace formula.” Other topics that were discussed were Ukraine’s accession to the European Union and NATO, as well as Italy’s participation in the restoration of Ukraine.
The “peace formula” put forth by Zelensky consists of ten propositions declared by the Ukrainian government with the aim of resolving the extensive invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation. These proposals were initially introduced by the Ukrainian president during a G20 meeting last autumn. The propositions include safeguarding nuclear, radiation, food, and energy security, reinstating Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and the withdrawal of Russian troops.
At the press conference that concluded the meeting, Zelensky announced that the two politicians had reached some important decisions about protecting the Ukrainian sky. Lastly, the President of Ukraine and the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Italian Republic issued a joint declaration. The declaration notes that Italy agrees on the need to increase collective pressure on Russia through further sanctions. Ukraine and Italy will continue to work together to prepare mechanisms of compensation for damage, injury, and destruction caused by Russian aggression.
Also, the same day, Zelensky held a meeting with the Pope in the Vatican. Zelensky and Pope talked about stopping Russian military aggression and restoring peace. The president invited Pope Francis to visit Ukraine in order to pray for all Ukrainians suffering from Russian terror. In addition, the head of state handed over to the Pope the icon “Vtrata, 2022-58” by Oleksii Revika. It is part of the Red Line series illustrating the events of the war. Revika himself claims it is a work about the loss of Ukrainian children in the aggressive war unleashed by Russia against Ukraine.
On May 14, Zelensky arrived in Germany. This is his first visit to Germany since the beginning of the war. He held talks with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Chancellor Olaf Scholz. He also visited the headquarters of the German Ministry of Defense.
In addition, Zelensky visited a military base in the city of Aachen, where Ukrainian soldiers are trained. He presented state awards to the fighters. Furthermore, Zelensky received the International Charlemagne Prize of Aachen 2023. It was awarded to the head of state and the Ukrainian people defending freedom, democracy, and European values by Juergen Linden, the chairman of the Charlemagne Prize board of directors, and Aachen’s mayor, Sibylle Keupen. “The Russian war has brought European nations closer than ever before. United and in solidarity, we stand with Ukraine,” Olaf Scholz said.
Following the meeting between the German and Ukrainian leaders, the German Ministry of Defense announced €2.7 billion in military assistance to Ukraine, the largest aid package from the country since the start of the full-scale invasion. The German government claimed that they are focusing on strengthening the air defense system of Ukraine. As part of this, Berlin plans to transfer four more Iris-T-SLM air defense systems and 12 Iris-T-SLS launchers. Additionally, Scholz stated that Germany remains steadfast in its commitment to the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
On the evening of May 14, Zelensky arrived in Paris. This is the second trip of the President of Ukraine to France since the start of the full-scale Russian invasion. Due to security reasons, the visit was announced a few hours before Zelensky’s arrival.
After President Emmanuel Macron met Vladimir Zelensky on the porch of the Elysee Palace, the presidents went to a working dinner. Macron and Zelensky exchanged views on the long-term prospects for the return of peace to Europe. They in particular spoke about the basis of the peace plan proposed by President Zelensky.
Macron reassured Zelensky that his country would continue to supply all types of support for Ukraine, including the supply of weapons, as long as it is necessary. After the meeting, Macron made a commitment that within the next few weeks, for France to provide numerous armored vehicles and light tanks, including the AMX-10RC, to multiple Ukrainian battalions.
According to the joint statement issued following the meeting between Presidents Zelensky and Macron, France agrees to increase collective pressure on Russia through further sanctions. Moreover, the country fully supports the Ukraine-NATO Commission as a platform to strengthen further and expand ongoing cooperation to help Ukraine move towards a Euro-Atlantic family in line with the Bucharest Declaration.
The United Kingdom
Great Britain was the last country to receive an official visit from Zelensky before his return to Ukraine. Zelensky arrived in London on May 15, to discuss an aforementioned “fighter jet” coalition with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
The meeting between the politicians took place at the residence of the British Prime Minister in Checkers, near London. Afterward, Zelensky told reporters that the supply of aircraft was of crucial importance for Ukraine. The Ukrainian president added that Ukraine and the UK are “true partners” and Rishi Sunak is kept informed of the details of developments on the battlefield.
The next day the British government announced a new military aid package for Ukraine that will include hundreds of strike drones with a range of more than 200 km. “All of this will be delivered in the coming months as Ukraine prepares to strengthen its resistance to the ongoing Russian invasion,” the statement said.
The UK cabinet also said it has plans to begin an “initial flight phase for groups of Ukrainian pilots who will undergo basic training” in the summer. The country is expected to train Advanced Flying Unit pilots in the British piloting program so they can apply those skills to other types of aircraft.
After his return to Ukraine, Zelensky commented on the “important and powerful” military assistance provided by the UK, Italy, France, and Germany and said that he was pleased with the agreements reached during his European tour. He said that he came home with “more political support.” He additionally claimed that even more countries are willing to join the “fighter jet” coalition now, including the Netherlands, Denmark, and Portugal.
Cover image by: Michel Euler / AP