Boris Johnson has made a surprise visit to Kyiv today – the day after Emmanuel Macron and EU leaders visited Ukraine for the first time – pledging to stand with Volodymyr Zelensky against Russia.
The PM is in the Ukrainian capital for the second time since Vladimir Putin invaded, following a day of mystery regarding his whereabouts.
Tweeting a picture greeting the Ukrainian president this afternoon, Mr Johnson said: ‘Mr President, Volodymyr, It is good to be in Kyiv again.’
A message on Mr Zelensky’s Telegram account also read: ‘Many days of this war have proved that Great Britain’s support for Ukraine is firm and resolute. Glad to see our country’s great friend Boris Johnson in Kyiv again.’
A video released by the Ukrainian government also showed Mr Zelensky warmly greeting the PM with a ‘hi, Boris’ as he arrived at the presidential palace.
The two leaders then walk up the stairs while conversing before posing for pictures and walking into a meeting room.
Mr Johnson is understood to be making the visit to launch a major new training programme that would be able to train 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers every 120 days.
It comes as Mr Johnson had been slated to appear at a conference being held by the Northern Research Group of Red Wall Tory MPs in Doncaster this afternoon.
He was also expected to campaign in Wakefield ahead of the crucial by-election next week. The Conservatives fear they are doomed to lose the seat to Labour after a torrid spell that has seen Mr Johnson fined over Partygate and most recently the resignation of his ethics adviser.
However, he pulled out of the event abruptly last night, causing particular anger among the MPs by not giving any reason.
Boris Johnson pictured with Volodymyr Zelensky during a visit to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv today
In April, Mr Johnson became the first Western leader to go to Kyiv, with the arrangements made in great secrecy
The pair have formed a close ‘bromance’ since the Russian invasion began, speaking regularly on the phone
Carrie Johnson was pictured enjoying herself at Ascot today – but with no sign of the PM
Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses a plenary session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum today
In April, Mr Johnson became the first Western leader to go to Kyiv, with the arrangements made in great secrecy.
He has formed a close ‘bromance’ with Mr Zelensky, speaking regularly on the phone.
Meanwhile, wife Carrie was pictured enjoying herself at Ascot today – but with no sign of the PM.
Mr Johnson’s visit comes the day after Emmanuel Macron, Olaf Scholz and Mario Draghi were in Kyiv.
The French, German and Italian premiers travelled into the country by train before holding talks with Mr Zelensky and then heading for the suburb of Irpin to see firsthand the devastation wrought by Putin’s troops and evidence of war crimes.
Mr Macron denounced the ‘barbarism’ of the attacks and praised the courage of Irpin’s residents and others in the region who helped thwart Russia’s attempt to overrun the capital.
But there was an awkward attempt to pull the Ukrainian leader into an embrace at a joint press conference, and images of the pair shaking hands earlier in the event looked similarly one-sided.
Mr Zelensky has in recent weeks openly accused Mr Macron of making excuses for Putin, with whom the French leader previously boasted a strong relationship, and has criticised his government for not providing enough weapons and support to help Ukraine’s war effort.
His body language around Mr Macron is a stark contrast to the warmth and enthusiasm with which he has greeted officials from the US and UK – particularly Mr Johnson.
Mr Johnson pictured during a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday
Mr Johnaon had been expected to campaign in Wakefield today ahead of a crucial by-election next week
The EU today gave its blessing to Ukraine and its neighbour Moldova to become an official candidate to join the bloc – with EU Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen announcing the move wearing blue and yellow.
The move represents an historic eastward shift in Europe’s outlook brought about by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which dramatically shattered peace in Europe and changed the perception of the bloc’s leaders.
Ukraine applied to join the EU just four days after Russian troops poured across its border in February. Four days later, so did Moldova and Georgia – two other ex-Soviet states contending with separatist regions occupied by Russian troops.
‘Ukraine has clearly demonstrated the country’s aspiration and the country’s determination to live up to European values and standards,’ the EU’s executive Commission head Ursula von der Leyen said in Brussels.
She made the announcement during a press conference of Friday wearing Ukrainian colours, a yellow blazer over a blue shirt. Ukrainians were ‘ready to die’ for the ‘European dream,’ she said.