Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on leaders of Western democracies to “follow the UK’s lead” during British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s surprise visit to Ukraine on Saturday.
Boris Johnson meets Zelensky during surprise visit to Ukraine
Calling Moscow’s war ‘inexcusable’, Johnson pledged to step up sanctions on Russia, ‘not only freezing bank assets and sanctioning oligarchs, but moving away from the use of hydrocarbons Russians”. He also pledged Britain’s help with mine clearance left behind by Russian forces and said Britain would liberalize trade with Ukraine.
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“What this war certainly produces is clarity on a vision for the future of Ukraine, where, with friends and partners, we, the UK and others provide the equipment, technology, know-how, intelligence, so that Ukraine will never be invaded again – so that Ukraine will be so fortified and so protected that Ukraine can never again be bullied, never again never be blackmailed, never be threatened in the same way again,” Johnson said at the press conference alongside Zelensky.
The trip was Johnson’s first to the war-torn country since the Russian invasion. A Downing Street spokeswoman said the British leader had visited Ukraine in “a show of solidarity with the Ukrainian people” and intended to present a new package of military and financial aid.
The British Embassy in Kyiv announced the visit by sharing a photo of Johnson and Zelensky on Twitter on Saturday with the caption “Surprise”. The two leaders were pictured sitting across from each other at a conference table, with the British and Ukrainian flags in the background.
In a Telegram post after the meeting, Andriy Yermak, head of the presidential office, called the conversation between Zelensky and Johnson “very comprehensive and constructive.” Yermak said he was in regular contact with Johnson’s national security adviser, Stephen Lovegrove, and with David Quarrey, his foreign affairs adviser, “so the visit was not spontaneous.”
Today I met my friend the president @ZelenskyyUa in Kyiv to show our unwavering support for the Ukrainian people.
We are putting in place a new package of financial and military assistance that demonstrates our commitment to his country’s fight against Russia’s barbaric campaign. pic.twitter.com/KNY0Nm6NQ3
—Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) April 9, 2022
Later on Saturday, Zelensky shared a video on his Telegram channel showing the two men walking through largely empty streets in kyiv, flanked by soldiers. A Ukrainian they met on a street corner shouted thanks to Johnson before shaking his hand. During their walk, a woman who said she was from Kharkiv presented Johnson and Zelensky with ceramic roosters, which became a symbol of Ukrainian resilience after one such ceramic piece survived a Russian attack on a building in the village of Borodyanka near kyiv, the president’s office said. .
Johnson had visited Ukraine in February as Russia prepared to invade. Oliver Dowden, chairman of the Conservative Party, told LBC Radio last month that the British prime minister was “desperate” to go to Ukraine and had a “genuine emotional connection” with the Ukrainian people.
Zelensky has repeatedly praised Johnson, calling him an “example” for other world leaders. Johnson and Zelensky would talk almost every day, and Britain decided to help Ukraine before other European countries.
Zelensky on Saturday expressed his gratitude to Johnson for the “direct, very clear and specific position of your wonderful and powerful country”, thanking him for his visit and calling him “our most sincere friend”.
“You have come here, and we are particularly grateful that this has happened – it is a true reflection of the UK’s decisive and significant support for Ukraine, and we are always grateful for that, we will always remember that” , said Zelensky.
Johnson’s trip came a day after he announced Britain would supply an additional $130 million worth of arms to Ukraine after the ‘unconscionable shelling’ of fleeing Ukrainians at a railway station in Israel on Friday. east of Ukraine.
Military equipment will include Starstreak anti-aircraft missiles and 800 anti-tank missiles, Johnson said, as well as precision ammunition and additional helmets, body armor and night vision equipment.
In kyiv on Saturday, Johnson pledged 120 armored vehicles and new anti-ship missiles to Ukraine. He also said the UK would guarantee an additional $500 million in World Bank loans to Ukraine, according to a Downing Street statement.
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Johnson’s visit followed a trip by European Union leaders to Ukraine on Friday. Because Britain is no longer a member of the EU, Johnson has made a coordinated but separate effort to show support for Ukraine.
Hours after the visit, Zelensky warned in his nightly address that ‘the whole European project is a target for Russia’ and called on ‘all democracies, the whole civilized world’ to impose an oil embargo as a first step to push Moscow towards a peace agreement with kyiv.
The UK announced last month that it would phase out imports of Russian oil by the end of the year. The United States banned imports of Russian oil, but Europe, dependent on supplies from Russia, remained resilient.
In his Saturday night address, Zelensky said Russian oil and gas were the “two sources of Russians’ self-confidence and sense of impunity.”
“Russia can still afford to live in illusions and bring new military forces and equipment to our land,” Zelensky said, according to an English translation posted on his Telegram account. “And that means more and more sanctions are needed. Even more weapons for our state are needed.
Miriam Berger contributed to this report.