Ukraine: Boris Johnson meets Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv
The former prime minister was invited to Kyiv by President Volodymyr Zelensky as he battles to secure the military equipment needed to end the assault on his country. Mr Johnson said Ukraine must “win as fast as possible” and warned the West now is the moment to “double down”.
Germany has so far refused to give permission for its battle tanks to be sent to the frontline.
But Mr Johnson urged Nato countries to give Ukrainians “all the tools they need to finish the job”.
The ex-PM was clearly shocked to be greeted by a group of senior figures as he arrived for talks with the president.
He told Mr Zelensky it was “too much honour” to have such a gathering waiting for him before adding “my god you are all here, I can’t believe it”.
Ukrainian civilians also hugged him and asked for selfies as they spotted Mr Johnson walking along the street.
The president hailed Mr Johnson a “true friend” before adding “thanks for your support”.
Mr Johnson also visited Bucha on the outskirts of the capital, where Russian forces slaughtered more than 400 civilians in a massacre last year.
Mr Johnson said the UK would be ‘sticking by Ukraine for as long as it takes’
He said: “It is a privilege to visit Ukraine at the invitation of President Zelensky.
“The suffering of the people of Ukraine has gone on for too long.
“The only way to end this war is for Ukraine to win – and to win as fast as possible. This is the moment to double down and to give the Ukrainians all the tools they need to finish the job.
“The sooner Putin fails, the better for Ukraine and for the whole world.”
Mr Johnson said the UK would be “sticking by Ukraine for as long as it takes”.
“You are going to win and you are going to get all the Russians out of your country, but we will be there for the long term.
“We will also be wanting to help you to reconstruct.”
Commons Defense Select Committee chairman Tobias Ellwood previously warned that Mr. Johnson should “not interfere with the messaging or the official lines of communication” between London and Kyiv.
A spokesman for Mr Johnson added that he fully supports UK Government policy on Ukraine
But Downing Street dismissed suggestions Mr Johnson’s visit undermined Rishi Sunak’s work with Ukraine.
A source said the Prime Minister was “always supportive of all colleagues showing that the UK is behind Ukraine and will continue to support them”.
A spokesman for Mr Johnson added that he fully supports UK Government policy on Ukraine, including the recent decision to send Challenger 2 tanks, and his visit demonstrates solidarity with the people of Ukraine.
Mr. Johnson played a crucial role in galvanizing Western allies to back Ukraine in the early days of the Russian invasion.
Conservative MP Sir James Duddridge without the ex-PM’s actions, support from Nato countries would have been weaker.
He said: “Without Boris, President Zelensky would not have gotten the solid international backing he needed.
“The boss’s support for Ukraine will be remembered as one of the big successes of his first term as Prime Minister.”
Mr. Sunak visited Ukraine in November, pledging continued British support to the country in the fight against Moscow’s forces.
So far among the Nato allies, only the UK has heeded Mr Zelensky’s call to send tanks, in the form of 14 British Army Challenger 2s.
Last week, Mr. Johnson spoke in a panel discussion on Ukraine at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where he was introduced as a “legendary figure” in Ukraine.
Kyiv has warned that the West’s “indecision” over sending extra weapons to Ukraine is “killing more of our people”.
Berlin has refused to allow allies to supply the country with its Leopard 2 tanks, something it must sign off under export rules.
Former spy chief Sir Richard Dearlove said the invasion is going from “bad to worse” for Russian president Vladimir Putin.
He told GB News: “This is a conflict that Putin politically in Russia cannot afford to lose.
“So, if he does lose, and I think one would have to reflect on what losing means in this particular case, then I think his political future is probably over, finished.
“The mechanisms for getting rid of a leader in Russia are not clear. I think he’s just in a very vulnerable situation.
“There’s a disastrous conflict he’s entered into, it’s going from bad to worse.
“He’s probably faced with another call-up. That clearly is deeply unpopular in Russia. There must be massive tensions within the leadership group inside the Kremlin, there must be massive tensions socially across Russia over this whole issue.”
Mr Johnson said Ukraine must ‘win as fast as possible’
Sir Richard said it was not clear how Putin would be dealt with if Russia is defeated.
“I rashly predicted last year that on the grounds of probably his health, he gets shuffled off into a sanatorium and would disappear and then you would just have a probably a continuation of the same regime and in someone else’s hands,” he said.
“I still think that that’s a possibility. There’s clearly something wrong with him. Physically, I think. I’m not a clinician but I know there are clinicians analyzing his movements.
“There’s something wrong with him and maybe that is affecting his political judgment as well.”
Boris Johnson may have been out of office for many months, but his passionate support for Ukraine means he remains at the forefront of the minds of Ukrainians.
Volodymyr Zelensky is under no obligation to issue an invitation to a former premier but has made it clear he considers Mr Johnson a friend and true ally.
Crucially, the Ukrainian leader knows the former prime minister is a man who can get things done.
It is no coincidence that as he battles to secure the tanks he needs from allies, the president has turned to the ex-PM who rallied European nations at the start of the invasion.
Mr Johnson was clearly surprised that Mr Zelensky had gathered together some of the senior figures from his previous visits to meet him now that he travels as a humble backbench MP rather than the nation’s leader.
But the decision shows that his contribution remains greatly valued in Ukraine.
That was also reflected on the streets of Ukraine where ordinary people in a war-torn nation greeted him with delight.
Some Tories fear that Mr. Johnson’s visit undermines Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Downing Street insisted that is not the case.
Everyone involved must remember that it is Russian president Vladimir Putin who is the enemy and should not be distracted by any party squabbling.