Boris Johnson vows to arm Ukraine until 'nobody dares invade again'

British PM becomes first foreign leader to address Ukrainian Parliament during war with Russia

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson addresses Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, and the country's MPs by video link. Reuters
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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Ukraine on Tuesday that Britain will keep supplying weapons until “no one will ever dare to attack you again”, as he became the first foreign leader to address the country’s parliament during its war with Russia.

In an emotive speech in which he described the defence of Ukraine as the country’s “finest hour”, evoking Winston Churchill's rhetoric in the Second World War, Mr Johnson announced a new aid package worth £300 million ($376m) which will go towards night vision equipment, artillery detection radar and drones to supply remote battalions.

Speaking by video link to assembled MPs and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Mr Johnson said western powers had not reacted strongly enough to Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 and "collectively failed to impose the sanctions that we should have put on Vladimir Putin".

But he issued a rallying cry that "Ukraine will win, Ukraine will be free", despite its army being outnumbered by Russian troops, in what he called a struggle of "right versus wrong ... good versus evil".

Mr Zelenskyy, who has described Britain as one of Ukraine's closest allies during the two-month conflict, said in response to Mr Johnson's speech the two countries were now "brothers and sisters".

While Mr Zelenskyy has conducted a virtual tour of European parliaments by addressing several of them in succession to demand more weapons and support, Mr Johnson's address is the first time a western leader has reciprocated.

It comes almost 10 weeks into a conflict which western officials have described as going badly for Russia and which is now concentrated in the eastern Donbas region after Moscow scaled back its attacks on and around the capital Kyiv.

Peace talks have stalled since evidence emerged of civilians being massacred near Kyiv, but Ukraine had previously signalled it could agree to a form of neutrality in which various powers such as Britain and Germany promise to guarantee its security.

Mr Johnson hinted at the post-war security arrangements by saying in his speech that Britain would "carry on supplying Ukraine ... until we have achieved our long-term goal, which must be so to fortify Ukraine that no one will ever dare to attack you again".

Britain's immediate contributions will include a fleet of 13 armoured 4x4 vehicles to rescue people from besieged areas and take officials to civilian command posts, in response to what it said was a request by the Ukrainian government.

The additional military aid comes on top of anti-tank weapons, air defence systems, armoured vehicles and defensive equipment such as helmets and body armour that Britain has donated to Ukraine.

Mr Johnson speaks by video link from Downing Street as a British flag is held up at the Ukrainian end. EPA

Taking aim at the Russian president on Tuesday, Mr Johnson said Mr Putin had led himself into disaster by silencing critics, echoing remarks by western officials that Kremlin advisers were afraid to tell him the truth about the war, and said Ukraine's resistance had "exploded the myth" of Russian military strength.

"The so-called irresistible force of Putin’s war machine has broken on the immoveable object of Ukrainian patriotism and love of country," Mr Johnson said. "This is Ukraine’s finest hour, that will be remembered and recounted for generations to come.

"Your children and grandchildren will say that Ukrainians taught the world that the brute force of an aggressor counts for nothing against the moral force of a people determined to be free."

Mr Johnson, who visited Kyiv on April 9, said no foreign leader could speak lightly about handing over territory or making other concessions to appease the Kremlin after witnessing what had happened to Ukrainians under Russian attack.

"This is about the right of Ukrainians to protect themselves against Putin’s violent and murderous aggression," Mr Johnson said. "It is about Ukrainian democracy against Putin’s tyranny. It is about freedom versus oppression. It is about right versus wrong. It is about good versus evil. And that is why Ukraine must win."

Britain recently followed other nations in moving its embassy back to Kyiv, where ambassador Melinda Simmons said she had witnessed "shock after shock" after returning to the capital.

Ms Simmons told BBC News that her entourage had passed "bombed out playgrounds, bombed out schools, hospitals, burned out trees, twisted metal in farmland", belying Russia's claims to be on a mission to demilitarise Ukraine and showing that "right from the beginning it was about hitting the Ukrainian nation".

Updated: May 03, 2022, 2:55 PM
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