Boris Johnson makes a surprise visit to war-torn Ukraine to meet with President Zelensky and pledge help

Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a surprise visit to Ukraine on Sunday, where he met President Volodymyr Zelensky and pledged his country’s support in its fight against Russia.

Boris, who was prime minister when Russia invaded Ukraine in late February 2022, said the UK would “hold on to Ukraine as long as it needs it”.

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, right, and former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speak during their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Sunday, January 22, 2023.
(Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

“You’re going to win and you’re going to get all the Russians out of your country, but we’re going to be there for the long haul,” Johnson said. “And we will also want to help you rebuild.”

During his trip, the former Prime Minister visited Borodinka and Bucha, suburbs of the Ukrainian capital that witnessed some of the most horrific atrocities of the war.

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The governor of the Kyiv region, Oleksiy Kuleba, told Johnson that more than 160 residents were killed in Borodinka during the month-long Russian occupation of the city last year, though about 60% of residents have since returned.

In Kyiv, President Zelensky and senior officials, including the foreign minister, lined up to personally welcome the former British prime minister.

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, left, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson walk after their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, June 17, 2022.

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, left, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson walk after their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, June 17, 2022.
(Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

While in office, Johnson sought to position London as one of Kyiv’s greatest allies in the West. He visited Kyiv often and contacted Zelensky often.

Meanwhile, Ukraine supporters pledged billions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine during a meeting at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Friday. International defense leaders have discussed Ukraine’s urgent request for Leopard 2 tanks, and the failure to reach an agreement has overshadowed the new commitments.

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“This is a moment to double down and give the Ukrainians all the tools they need to finish the job,” Johnson said in a statement. “The sooner Putin fails the better for Ukraine and the world at large.”

Emergency workers clear rubble after a Russian missile hit a multi-storey building, leaving several people under rubble, in the southeastern city of Dnipro, Ukraine, on Saturday, January 14.

Emergency workers clear rubble after a Russian missile hit a multi-storey building, leaving several people under rubble, in the southeastern city of Dnipro, Ukraine, on Saturday, January 14.
(AP/Evgeniy Maloletka)

This past week has been particularly tragic for Ukraine even by the standards of a brutal war that has dragged on for nearly a year, killed tens of thousands of people, uprooted millions more, and created widespread destruction for Ukrainian cities.

A barrage of Russian missiles hit an apartment complex in the southeastern city of Dnipro on January 14, killing at least 45 civilians. On Wednesday, a government helicopter crashed into a kindergarten building in a suburb of Kyiv. Ukraine’s interior minister, other officials and a child on the ground were among the 14 dead.

Zelensky vowed on Sunday that Ukraine would eventually win the war.

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“We are united because we are strong. We are strong because we are united,” the Ukrainian leader said in a video address marking Ukrainian Unity Day, which commemorates the uniting of eastern and western Ukraine in 1919.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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