King Charles Hosts Ukraine's President Zelenskyy at Buckingham Palace During Surprise Visit to the U.K.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is on his second overseas visit since the invasion of Ukraine by Russia almost a year ago

King Charles is hosting President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during the Ukrainian leader's surprise visit to the U.K.

The King, 74, met Zelenskyy, 45, for the first time at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday after Ukraine's president spoke in the House of Parliament and met Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who welcomed him off his plane earlier in the day.

Welcoming him, King Charles expressed how delighted he was to welcome President Zelenskyy, who replied it was "a great honour to be here, thank you for finding the time for me."

The King told him, "We've all been worried about you and thinking about your country for so long, I can't tell you."

Zelenskyy replied, "Thank you so much."

The two men chatted privately for about 30 minutes in the 1844 Room about the continuing conflict in Ukraine and the part Britain has played in supporting the nation.

King Charles III holds an audience with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at Buckingham Palace, London
Aaron Chown/AP/Shutterstock

When he spoke to British lawmakers on Wednesday, Zelenskyy referred to his upcoming meeting with King Charles. Saying it "will be a truly special moment for me," the president said he would express gratitude for Charles' support to the Ukraine people when the royal was still the Prince of Wales.

"In Britain, the King is an air force pilot — and in Ukraine today, every air force pilot is a king," Zelenskyy said, according to the BBC.

Zelenskyy said that the U.K. "is marching with us to the most important victory of our lifetime," the BBC reported. "After we win together, any aggressor will know what awaits him if he attacks international order."

King Charles III (L) welcomes Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky (R) at Buckingham Palace, in London, ahead of an audience during his first visit to the UK since the Russian invasion of Ukraine

After making a plea for fighter jets, Zelenskyy referred to his last visit. "Two years ago, I thanked you for delicious English tea...I will be leaving the Parliament today thanking all of you in advance for powerful English planes," he said.

The Ukraine president is in the U.K. to thank the country for its support since the invasion last February by Russia and to see some of his country's troops, which are being trained by pilots and being taught how to operate British tanks.

King Charles III holds an audience with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at Buckingham Palace, London
Aaron Chown/AP/Shutterstock

It is Zelenskyy's first visit to Britain since the invasion and only his second overseas trip. The first was to the U.S. late last year.

The British royal family has voiced their support of Ukraine in the wake of Russia's invasion on several occasions. Kate Middleton and Prince William offered words of support for Ukraine in a statement shared on their joint Twitter account in February 2022.

"In October 2020 we had the privilege to meet President Zelenskyy and the First Lady to learn of their hope and optimism for Ukraine's future," the statement from the couple said. "Today we stand with the President and all of Ukraine's people as they bravely fight for that future."

Prince William, Kate Middleton, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and First Lady Olena Zelenska
Prince William, Kate Middleton, Olena Zelenskyy and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Jonathan Brady/WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Members of the royal family have visited volunteer efforts and communities for displaced Ukrainian families over the past year.

In September, Princess Kate held a special audience with Ukraine's First Lady Olena Zelenska at Buckingham Palace, who traveled to the U.K. to attend Queen Elizabeth's funeral.

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Britain's Catherine, Princess of Wales (L) speaks with First Lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska (L) during a meeting at Buckingham Palace on September 18, 2022. - Britain was gearing up Sunday for the momentous state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II as King Charles III prepared to host world leaders and as mourners queued for the final 24 hours left to view her coffin, lying in state in Westminster Hall at the Palace of Westminster. (Photo by Kirsty O'Connor / POOL / AFP) (Photo by KIRSTY O'CONNOR/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

In December, the president was recognized for his wartime leadership when Time magazine named him its 2022 Person of the Year. He was named along with the spirit of Ukraine in honor of the nation's refusal to back down in the face of Russian aggression.

"Zelenskyy's success as a wartime leader has relied on the fact that courage is contagious," Time reporter Simon Shuster wrote about Zelenskyy's actions in the early moments of the invasion when he famously refused to leave Kyiv, inspiring his people to fight and earning the status of a wartime hero around the world.

"It spread through Ukraine's political leadership in the first days of the invasion, as everyone realized the President had stuck around," added Shuster.

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