Britain's 'brave' ambassador to Ukraine named in King Charles' New Year honours list

The diplomat has been made a Dame for her services to UK foreign policy

Melinda Simmons and the head of Ukraine's Presidential Office Andriy Yermak at St Michael's Golden-Domed Cathedral in Kyiv. Reuters
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The UK's “brave and inspiring” ambassador to Ukraine leads the King’s New Year honours list after displaying determination under fire in Kyiv.

Melinda Simmons, who has rallied international will to help Ukraine as it “pushes back an assault on all of our values”, receives a Damehood for her services to British foreign policy.

Deborah Bronnert, ambassador to Russia, will be handed the same honour for her work countering the Kremlin’s aggression towards its neighbour.

Ms Simmons recently opened up about her year in a war zone in a candid LinkedIn post, and was hailed by followers for her tireless dedication to helping Ukraine. After fleeing the capital for the western city of Lviv in February, she returned after Russia abandoned its initial war plan.

“I returned to Kyiv myself in April, slack jawed at the destruction I saw from Zhitomir on to the outskirts of the capital,” Ms Simmons said. “Bit by bit we added to our [British embassy] Kyiv returnees and set back to work in the embassy.

“Humanitarian, military, economic, energy aid. We worked between the Ukrainian and UK government as fast as we could to identify what was needed and what we could help supply.

“Just a few months of air raid sirens and the occasional air strike before Russia assaulted Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. We continued the work against a daily backdrop of taking to shelters. Living without heat, light, water, internet or mobile access.

“As 2022 draws to a close Kyiv and all parts of Ukraine continue to be pounded by Russian missiles and drones targeting electricity supply. Residents do their best to adapt.”

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The diplomat was lauded for her resilience and dedication.

Marzena Richter, a member of the British Polish Chamber of Commerce, called her a “credit to the UK”.

“Thank you Melinda and your team for your bravery,” she said.

Praise also came from a LinkedIn user called Rachel S., a data scientist and former British Army officer, who said Ms Simmons’s actions “demonstrates the allies' resolve to fulfil these aims of defending Ukraine, Europe, democracy and humanity.”

New Year honours are awarded to people across a range of fields, including foreign policy, health and development.

Others who worked on Britain’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine also appear on the list. These include two awards at OBE (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) to Lt Col Andrew Kent and Dr Paul Ransom for their outstanding contributions to UK health support overseas, including on the ground in Ukraine.

Stephanie Al Qaq, former Middle East and North Africa director at the Foreign Office and now ambassador to Brazil, was awarded a CMG (Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George).

Knighthoods were given to:

· Mark Sedwill, a former Cabinet secretary, for his career in public service spanning domestic and international policy across seven prime ministers.

· Masood Ahmed, a Pakistan-born economist and president of the Centre for Global Development, for spearheading initiatives to advance the development of economies around the world.

· Mo Ibrahim, a Sudanese-born billionaire, for his services to philanthropy and charity.

· Alok Sharma, president of Cop26, for his leadership at the 2021 UN summit in Glasgow and role in driving the UK’s efforts to curb climate change.

Sir Philip Barton, permanent under-secretary at the Foreign Office and head of the diplomatic service, said: “I congratulate everyone receiving an honour and thank them for their hard work and years of service.

“The UK’s impact around the world depends on exceptional people like those recognised in His Majesty The King’s New Year Honours list. I am grateful for their outstanding contribution.”

Updated: December 30, 2022, 10:30 PM
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