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King tells of concern for Zelensky and Ukrainian people at historic audience

The King told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “we’ve all been worried about you and thinking about your country for so long” as the pair met for the first time at a historic audience in Buckingham Palace.

Mr Zelensky was dressed in his trademark khaki green military fatigues as he was welcomed to the royal residence on Wednesday afternoon.

Charles greeted the president with a wide smile and a warm handshake in the Palace’s 1844 Room, saying he was delighted to meet him.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visit to UK
The King gestures as he meets Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at Buckingham Palace (Aaron Chown/PA)

The president is on his first visit to the UK since the Russian invasion of his country began and in an earlier impassioned address to Parliament revealed he was planning to take the opportunity to thank Charles for the support he had shown Ukraine as the Prince of Wales.

The pair discussed the conflict in Ukraine and the part Britain has played in supporting the nation, Buckingham Palace said.

In the opulent room, Mr Zelensky told the King that it was “a great honour to be here”, adding: “Thank you for finding the time for me.”

The King said: “We’ve all been worried about you and thinking about your country for so long, I can’t tell you.”

Mr Zelensky replied: “Thank you so much.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visit to UK
Charles meets the president in the 1844 Room (Aaron Chown/PA)

The King said he had heard that the president had addressed both Houses of Parliament earlier in the day.

Mr Zelensky said what a “big support” they had been.

The monarch replied: “I’m so glad.”

The meeting between the King and the president continued in private, with the pair joined by Sir Clive Alderton, the King and the Queen’s Consort’s principal private secretary, and from Ukraine – Andriy Yermak, head of the president’s office, and Dmytro Kuleba, minister of foreign affairs.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visit to UK
Mr Zelensky is greeted by Sir Clive Alderton, principal private secretary to the King and the Queen Consort (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

They spent 30 minutes sitting together in the 1844 Room while tea was served, speaking about the ongoing war.

Further representatives from Ukraine were then welcomed into the room for an introduction and informal conversation with the King and a chance to have pictures taken individually.

The Ukrainian party then departed through the Grand Entrance, the Palace said.

Mr Zelensky said, prior to the audience, that meeting the King was a “truly special moment” and referred to Charles’s former military service in the Royal Air Force.

Mr Zelensky told a packed Westminster Hall: “Today I will have the honour to be received by His Majesty the King.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visit to UK
Mr Zelensky addressed parliamentarians in Westminster Hall (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“It will be a truly special moment for me, for our country.

“In particular because I will convey to him from all the Ukrainians the words of gratitude for the support His Majesty showed to them when he was still the Prince of Wales.”

He added: “I also intend to tell him something I think that is very, very, very important, not only for the future of Ukraine but for the future of Europe

“In Britain, the King is an air force pilot and in Ukraine today, every air force pilot is a king.”

He finished with “God bless Great Britain and long live the King”.

In May 2022, Charles, then the Prince of Wales, spoke about the “nightmare situation” in Ukraine during a trip to Romania to meet refugees who fled the war in their homeland.

Russian invasion of Ukraine
The Prince of Wales meets members of the Red Cross during his visit to the Ukrainian refugee centre in Bucharest, Romania, last year (Yui Mok/PA)

Speaking through an interpreter, the prince told a group of Ukrainian families: “We feel for Ukraine, a nightmare situation. Keep praying.”

In March last year, Charles said the values of democracy were under attack in Ukraine in the “most unconscionable way”.

“In the stand we take here, we are in solidarity with all those who are resisting brutal aggression,” he said.

Charles has been outspoken in the past about Russian President Vladimir Putin and his annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visit to UK
The King shakes hand with Mr Zelensky (Aaron Chown/PA)

He sparked a diplomatic storm in 2014 when he compared Mr Putin to Hitler during a visit to Canada.

He was speaking to Canadian museum volunteer Marianne Ferguson, who told him how her Jewish family fled the Nazi occupation of Danzig at the outset of the Second World War, when he drew a parallel with Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Mr Putin, in a direct message to Charles, publicly branded the comments “unacceptable” and said such remarks were “not what monarchs do”.

As he arrived at the Palace, Mr Zelensky was driven through the main gates and across the forecourt into the quadrangle.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visit to UK
Mr Zelensky is greeted by Lieutenant Colonel Jonny Thompson, equerry to the King (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

He was greeted at the Sovereign’s Entrance firstly by the King’s equerry, Lieutenant Colonel Jonny Thompson, who was dressed in his military uniform with kilt, before being introduced to Sir Clive, who welcomed him inside.