Zelensky Visits Britain, Requests “Wings for Freedom”

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s trip to the United Kingdom, anger from the Turkish opposition, and a visit to the troops by Kim Jong Un.

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Sunak Pledges U.K. Training for Ukrainian Pilots

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s trip to the United Kingdom, anger from the Turkish opposition, and a visit to the troops by Kim Jong Un.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.

Sunak Pledges U.K. Training for Ukrainian Pilots

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky went to the United Kingdom on Wednesday, his second trip outside Ukraine since the war in his country began almost a year ago.

In London, he won over British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who agreed that the United Kingdom would train Ukrainian pilots on advanced NATO fighter jets.

Zelensky wants more than training, though; he wants planes. Speaking to British lawmakers, Zelensky asked for “wings for freedom.” He also had a royal audience with King Charles III, wearing his trademark green sweatshirt and military cargo pants. In addition to weaponizing his wardrobe, as the New York Times noted, Zelensky appealed to the monarch’s own military past in his speech to Parliament, declaring “In Britain, the King is an air force pilot … In Ukraine today, every air force pilot is a king,” in a line he reportedly wrote himself.

Ukraine’s allies have up until now been reluctant to provide planes, a hesitation at least in part due to the concern that they could strike inside Russia and thereby escalate the war.

On providing planes, Sunak said “nothing is off the table” and that “The first step in being able to provide advanced aircrafts is to have soldiers or aviators that are capable of using them. That is a process that takes some time.” He added, “We’ve started that process today.”

Zelensky then went to Paris to dine with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Scholz, who promised a new era when Russia invaded Ukraine but has since been criticized for dragging his feet in providing material support, has said he expects staunch support for Ukraine at the upcoming EU special summit on Ukraine. Tighter sanctions on Russia are also expected to mark the anniversary of the war.

What We’re Following Today 

Turkish opposition blames Erdogan. As the death toll passed 16,000 in the wake of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that shook the country on Monday, anger is growing, too. Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of Turkey’s main opposition party, blamed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the scale of destruction, saying, “If there is one person responsible for this, it is Erdogan.” Kilicdaroglu said Erdogan’s government had “not prepared for an earthquake for 20 years” (Erdogan was prime minister of the country from 2003 to 2014, and has been president since then).

Some in the hardest-hit areas, meanwhile, have said that the government was too slow to respond. Twitter was briefly blocked in Turkey on Wednesday—a frequent response from Ankara amid disasters or when criticism of the government spreads on social media—prompting furious protests from opposition figures and rescuers who use the platform to locate people trapped under rubble. Access was restored on Thursday.

Erdogan, for his part, said it was “not possible” to prepare for something like this, and that those who have said they had not seen security forces at all since the earthquake were “provocateurs.”

“This is a time for unity, solidarity. In a period like this, I cannot stomach people conducting negative campaigns for political interest,” he told reporters. Earlier this week, Erdogan announced a three-month state of emergency, which is expected to end just before Turkish elections this May.

Kim Jong Un brings daughter to visit troops. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un brought a person believed to be his daughter to visit his country’s troops. The visit was meant to mark the 75th victory of the army’s founding, and amid reports that North Korea is planning a military parade to show off the latest in its nuclear weapons program.

Kim praised the “limitless strength” of his military, which he hailed as the “world’s strongest.” CNN described the visit as “latest sign the girl is possibly being groomed as his eventual successor in an authoritarian family regime dating back decades.” She is thought to be around 9 years old and was seated at the center of the lead table.

Keep an Eye On

Infamous Russian mercenary killed in Ukraine. Igor Mangushev, a Russian army captain and mercenary, was reportedly shot and killed in Ukraine. His wife has described his killing as an execution. Mangushev led an anti-drone unit in Luhansk. He was an ultra-nationalist who claimed Russia was at war with the idea of Ukraine as an “anti-Russian state” and how many Ukrainians died was not important.

He was known to be a close associate of the most famous mercenary boss in Russia, Yevgeny Prigozhin. There has been much speculation about who was behind the killing, as he was apparently shot in the head at close range in the occupied town of Kadiivka some distance from the front line.

Uganda condemned for closing of U.N. human rights office. Human rights activists blasted the Ugandan government’s decision to shut down the country’s U.N. human rights office just months after a report criticized the government for the continued use of torture and called for investigations of top officials for excessive use of force.

In a letter earlier this month, Uganda’s foreign affairs ministry informed the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights that it would not renew its host country agreement. The current mandate, signed in 2020, expires in August. Adrian Jjuuko, executive director of the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum, tweeted that the decision to close the office showed that the government had “lost all sense of shame.”

China’s Balloon Could Be America’s Awakening by Richard Fontaine

Are U.S. Sanctions on Russia Working? by Ravi Agrawal

Syria’s Earthquake Victims Are Trapped by Assad by Charles Lister

Seized at sea. New Zealand said it found over $300 million worth of cocaine floating at sea. Authorities believe it was bound for Australia. New Zealand Police said its officers collected the drugs along with the New Zealand Customs Service and the New Zealand Defense Force. “This is one of the single biggest seizures of illegal drugs by authorities in this country,” Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said in a statement. “While this disrupts the syndicate’s operations, we remain vigilant given the lengths we know these groups will go to circumvent coming to law enforcement’s attention.” No arrests had been made at time of writing.

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