The speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle has announced that the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky will address MPs on Tuesday at 5pm via video link. His speech will be shown on screens being installed in the chamber.
The address was requested by Zelensky himself, and Sir Lindsay commented that “every parliamentarian wants to hear directly from the president, who will be speaking to us live from Ukraine, so this is an important opportunity for the House.” President Zelensky remains in Kyiv, having recently sent Vladimir Putin a direct address from his Presidential Office.
Throughout the day, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be holding further meetings with the leaders of Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic to discuss the role of the UK in supporting the security of central Europe. This follows his meetings yesterday with Joe Biden, Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz yesterday, with the four leaders agreeing to maintain pressure on Russia diplomatically and economically.
Last week Mr Zelensky addressed the European parliament via video link, receiving a standing ovation when he spoke. Similarly, the Ukrainian ambassador to the UK Vadym Prystaiko received a standing ovation from MPs at last weeks PMQs.
Though it is not clear exactly what he will say in his address, it is thought that he will ask for more arms from the UK to defend Ukraine from Russia, which it is likely the UK will agree to. However, he is also expected to reiterate his calls for the introduction of a no-fly zone over Ukraine from the UK and NATO.
While Boris Johnson has agreed with NATO allies that greater military support is needed for Ukraine, there is very little support among member states for the introduction of a no-fly zone, with NATO’s general secretary Jens Stoltenberg ruling this out, saying “we have no intention of moving into Ukraine, either on the ground or in the air.”
There is a very clear reason for this – you cannot establish a no-fly zone without enforcing it. Were the UK or NATO more widely to establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine, it would mean that they would have to directly engage Russian aircraft violating the no-fly zone. It would mark a significant escalation of the conflict, and would, in the words of UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace trigger “war across Europe”.
Given the recent decision of Vladimir Putin to put Russia’s nuclear forces on “special” alert, whatever Zelensky’s calls may look like it is incredibly unlikely that the UK would help enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine. Indeed, after Putin’s declaration that any countries involved in setting up a no-fly zone over Ukraine would be seen by Russia to have joined in the war, such a policy risks a level of escalation with unthinkable consequences.