KYIV: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson offered to launch a military training program for Ukrainian forces on Friday as he met President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on his second trip to the Ukrainian capital since Russia’s invasion.
Johnson, who survived a no confidence vote earlier this month, was greeted by Zelensky as a “great friend” and posted a picture of himself with the Ukrainian president, with the words “Mr President, Volodymyr, It is good to be in Kyiv again.”
Johnson offered to launch a major training operation for Ukrainian forces, with the potential to train up to 10,000 soldiers every 120 days at the meeting, his office 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,” Johnson said.
The unannounced trip was Johnson’s latest show of support for Zelensky since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
It came a day after the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Romania traveled to Kyiv and endorsed Ukraine’s candidate status to join the European Union.
“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,” Zelensky said.
He and Johnson discussed the state of play at the front line and the need to ramp up supplies of heavy weapons and to build up Ukrainian air defenses, Zelensky said in a short statement delivered next to Johnson.
“We have a shared vision of how to move toward victory because that it is exactly what Ukraine needs — the victory of our state,” Zelensky said.
Johnson said in his statement: “We’re here once again to underline that we are here with you to give you the strategic endurance that you will need.”
He said that would include helping to intensify sanctions on Russia and to rally diplomatic support for Ukraine.
Johnson, who faces political pressure at home, has grown in popularity in Ukraine as Britain has poured in military and political support to Kyiv during the Russian invasion.
One cafe in Kyiv is selling an apple dessert named the Borys Dzhonsonyuk, a Ukrainianized version of the prime minister’s name.
The new military training program would train Ukrainian forces outside of the country, Johnson’s office said. Each soldier would spend three weeks learning battle skills for the front line, as well as basic medical training, cyber-security and counter explosive tactics, it said.