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In our news wrap Wednesday, Ukraine's President Zelenskyy rallied support in London and Paris and renewed his appeal for more advanced weapons as Ukraine braces for a new Russian offensive, the U.S. military says the Chinese balloon shot down off South Carolina was part of a global surveillance effort and a Texas man pleaded guilty to federal hate crimes for a mass shooting in El Paso.
In the day's other headlines: Ukraine's President Zelenskyy rallied support in London and Paris on just his second trip abroad since the war began.
Britain announced for the first time it would train Ukrainian pilots on Western jets as Ukraine braces for a new Russian offensive.
For 900 years, princes and politicians have walked these steps in Westminster Hall. Today, to rapturous applause…
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
… the leader fighting Europe's largest war in 75 years predicted freedom would win.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukrainian President:
We proved together that the world truly helps those who are brave in defending freedom, and thus paves the way for a new history.
And Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked for a specific weapon by handing the House of Commons speaker the helmet of a Ukrainian pilot.
We have freedom. Give us wings to protect it.
Today, Britain pledged to train Ukrainian pilots on British jets, including Typhoons. And British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said providing Ukraine the jets was not off the table.
Rishi Sunak, British Prime Minister:
The first step in being able to provide advanced aircraft is to have soldiers or aviators that are capable of using them. That is a process that takes some time. We have started that process today.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy (through translator):
I heard from Mr. Prime Minister the desire to provide fighter jets. When it comes to supplying Typhoons to Ukraine, not everything depends on the decision of Great Britain alone.
So far, the U.S. has refused Ukrainian requests for F-16 fighter jets. Senior U.S. officials believe they are expensive, difficult to maintain, and would duplicate some of Ukraine's existing capabilities.
But, today, Secretary of State Blinken did not rule it out.
Antony Blinken, U.S. Secretary of State: This is an evolving process, and we will continue to make judgments about what we think Ukraine needs and what can be most effective.
Zelenskyy today also visited Paris to meet French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Zelenskyy pointed out that, when he last visited Europe, he got tea.
And we will be there to support you until the end and until you are victorious.
Today, he got tanks.
Thank you so much.
A declaration of unity.
King Charles III, United Kingdom:
Worried about you and thinking about your country.
And the first ever meeting between a Ukrainian leader and a British monarch.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Nick Schifrin.
The French and German leaders said later that Zelenskyy will attend a European Union summit tomorrow in Brussels.
Investigators report they have strong indications that Russian President Putin approved sending missiles to Ukrainian rebels who then shot down a Malaysian airliner in 2014. But the international team said today the evidence is not conclusive enough to prosecute Putin or anyone else. The attack on the airliner killed all 298 people on board. A Dutch court already convicted two Russians and a Ukrainian of shooting down the plane.
The U.S. military now says the Chinese balloon shot down off South Carolina was part of a global surveillance effort. The U.S. says it was a spy balloon. China denies it. But a Pentagon briefer today pointed to Chinese balloon flights over five continents in recent years. He said they're aimed at gathering military data, and he confirmed previous flights involving the U.S.
Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, Pentagon Press Secretary:
We are aware that there have been four previous balloons that have gone over U.S. territory. What we do know is that, in some cases, whereas some of these balloons previously had not been identified, subsequent analysis, subsequent intelligence analysis did enable us to indicate that these were Chinese balloons.
The State Department says U.S. diplomats have briefed dozens of countries on those Chinese surveillance activities.
A Texas man has pleaded guilty to federal hate crimes in one of the country's deadliest mass shootings ever. Patrick Crusius was accused of killing 23 people at an El Paso Walmart in 2019. He posted online about — quote — "a Hispanic invasion."
Federal prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty, but Crusius still faces a possible death sentence on state charges.
Three former Twitter executives acknowledged today they were wrong to block a news story on the contents of Hunter Biden's laptop before the 2020 election. They told a congressional hearing they made a mistake, but they denied being pressured by Democrats.
The hearing was dominated by claims and counterclaims between Democrat outside Republicans now in the House majority.
Rep. James Comer (R-KY):
Instead of allowing people to judge the information for themselves, you rushed to find a reason why the American people shouldn't see it.
In a matter of hours, you are deciding on the truth of a story that spans years and dozens of complex international transactions. You did this because you were terrified of Joe Biden not winning the election in 2020.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY):
A whole hearing about a 24-hour hiccup in a right-wing political operation, that is why we are here right now. And it is — it's just an abuse of public resources, an abuse of public time. We could be talking about health care. We could be talking about bringing down the cost of prescription drugs. We could be talking about abortion rights, civil rights, voting rights.
But, instead, we're talking about Hunter Biden's half-baked laptop story.
Republicans say this was just the first of more hearings to come on the president's family and on big tech.
In economic news, the Walt Disney Company announced a major restructuring that will cut 7,000 jobs, 3.5 percent of the work force.
And, on Wall Street, uncertainty about interest rates and inflation kept stocks off-balance. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 207 points to close at 33949. The Nasdaq fell 203 points, 1.7 percent. The S&P 500 slipped just over 1 percent.
Still to come on the "NewsHour": multiple security breaches at the Dallas Zoo raise questions about animal safety; and one exceptional man's take on being inspired by the natural world.
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