Boris Johnson pays a surprise visit to war-torn Ukraine to meet President Zelensky and promise help

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

Boris, who was prime minister when Russia invaded Ukraine in late February 2022, said the UK will “stay with Ukraine for as long as necessary”.

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Service, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, right, and former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson talk during their meeting in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, January 22, 2023.

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Service, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, right, and former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson talk during their meeting in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, January 22, 2023.
(Ukrainian Presidential Press Service 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’re going to want to help you rebuild, too.”

During his trip, the former prime minister visited Borodyanka and Bucha, the suburbs of the Ukrainian capital that have witnessed some of the most horrific atrocities of the war.

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

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

In this image from the Ukrainian Presidential Press Service, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson walk after their meeting in Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, June 17, 2022.

In this image from the Ukrainian Presidential Press Service, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson walk after their meeting in Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, June 17, 2022.
(Ukrainian Presidential Press Service via AP)

During his tenure, Johnson sought to position London as one of Kiev’s best allies in the West. He regularly visited Kiev and regularly called Zelenskyy.

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

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“Now is the time to double down and give Ukrainians all the tools they need to get the job done. The sooner Putin fails, the better for Ukraine and for the whole world,” Johnson said in a statement.

Rescuers clear the rubble after a Russian missile hit a multi-story building, leaving many people trapped under rubble in the southeastern city of Dnipro, Ukraine, on Saturday, January 14.

Rescuers clear the rubble after a Russian missile hit a multi-story building, leaving many people trapped under rubble in the southeastern city of Dnipro, Ukraine, on Saturday, January 14.
(AP/Evgeny Maloletka)

The past week has been particularly tragic for Ukraine, even by the standards of a brutal war that has lasted nearly a year, which has killed tens of thousands, uprooted millions more, and devastated 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. A government helicopter crashed into a building housing a kindergarten in a Kiev suburb on Wednesday. Ukraine’s interior minister, other officials and a child on the ground were among the 14 killed.

Zelensky vowed on Sunday that Ukraine would eventually prevail in 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 on Ukraine’s Unity Day, which commemorates the unity of eastern and western Ukraine in 1919.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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