Boris Johnson pledges training for 10,000 Ukrainian troops during surprise Kyiv visit

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said they also talked about weaponry needs and tightening sanctions

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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has made his second surprise visit to Ukraine where he offered troop-training missions and looked at tightening sanctions on Russia.

He tweeted a picture on Friday of himself and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy with the words: “Mr President, Volodymyr, It is good to be in Kyiv again.”

President Zelenskyy said they also talked about their weapon requirements. “I appreciate your understanding of our military requirements. That is very important. Particularly, we discussed the need to bolster the supplies of heavy weaponry,” President Zelenskyy said.

“The main thing today is to provide air defence for Ukraine as well. We started to move in this direction. Russian missiles remain a threat to our people, to the entire territory of Ukraine.”

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Photo: UK Government

The visit was also announced on Mr Zelenskyy’s Telegram account, which 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 from the Ukrainian government showed Mr Zelenskyy warmly greeting the prime minister with a “hi, Boris” as he arrived at the presidential palace.

The UK leader told his Ukrainian counterpart that the UK is prepared to launch a major operation to train Ukrainian armed forces, Downing Street said.

He pledged that Britain could train up to 10,000 troops every 120 days, when the two men met during the unannounced visit.

Downing Street said international partners would be invited to host the programme, if the offer is accepted by Ukraine.

In a statement, Mr Johnson said: “My visit today, in the depths of this war, is to send a clear and simple message to the Ukrainian people: the UK is with you and we will be with you until you ultimately prevail.

“As Ukrainian soldiers fire UK missiles in defence of your nation’s sovereignty, they do so also in defence of the very freedoms we take for granted.

“That is why I have offered President Zelenskyy a major new military training programme that could change the equation of this war — harnessing that most powerful of forces, the Ukrainian determination to win.”

Downing Street said the UK-led programme would train and drill the Armed Forces of Ukraine using battle-proven British Army expertise, allowing them to accelerate their deployment, rebuild their forces, and scale-up their resistance as they continue to defend their nation’s sovereignty against Russian invaders.

The previous Operation Orbital saw the UK train more than 22,000 Ukrainian personnel from 2015 until the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The new programme would train forces outside of the country.

They also talked about further sanctions on Russia.

“We discussed in detail new ways to step up sanctions against Russia,” President Zelenskyy said. “We can make sanctions tangible, so that Russia really feels that its aggression, its terrorist actions against Ukraine and against global stability will lead to losses for Russia itself — the aggressor must pay the highest price for this aggression, for this war.”

Earlier, Mr Johnson pulled out of speaking at a Yorkshire conference of northern Conservatives before a closely-contested by-election in the county.

Mr Johnson has been one of the strongest international supporters of Ukraine’s resistance to Russia’s invasion. Britain has given the country hundreds of millions of pounds in military and humanitarian aid.

Mr Zelenskyy has praised Mr Johnson for his support during the war with Russia, and spoke out after he survived a vote of no confidence from his own Conservative MPs earlier this month.

Mr Johnson's leadership has been under continued pressure in recent weeks after he received a police fine for breaching Covid-19 regulations in Downing Street. Most recently, his own ethics adviser resigned on Thursday after saying the prime minister had put him in an “odious position”.

He first visited Kyiv in April when he promised the West would continue to “ratchet up” sanctions on Moscow as he praised the courage of the Ukrainian resistance.

Yesterday, the leaders of the European Union's most powerful countries made a joint trip to Kyiv, their first since the war began.

They gave their backing to Ukraine's long-held desire to join the European Union after meeting, which was followed today by backing from the European Commission.

“Ukraine belongs to the European family,” said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, alongside France's Emmanuel Macron and Italy's Mario Draghi.

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson's wife Carrie was seen at Royal Ascot in the UK.

Carrie Johnson, centre, wife of Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, arrives with friends at Royal Ascot on June 17.  AFP
Updated: June 17, 2022, 6:24 PM
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