OPINION - Why we Ukrainians can never forget Boris Johnson

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 (PA)
(PA)

Ukraine and the UK agree about Russia’s barbaric war — but not about the figure of Boris Johnson. He is controversial at home but idolised in Ukraine. In a way, Johnson is to Ukraine what Volodymyr Zelensky is to the UK.

We in Ukraine are as vague about the intricacies of the domestic scene in the UK as most outsiders. The story of Brexit is for us (a) ancient history and (b) rather inexplicable to begin with. Forgive us, but our heart doesn’t skip a beat when we hear the word “Brexit”.

What counts for Ukrainians is what people did after the dark morning of February 24 — sat on their hands, called for “de-escalation”, spoke the empty words of “grave concern” — or did something to help Ukraine. Boris Johnson and his Cabinet were on the right side of history from day one. They talked the talk and walked the walk. They gave Ukraine the weapons and the faith with which we can win. A respectful reminder: most of the world was clear about who was in the right or in the wrong in Ukraine from day one. But most of the world also had little to no faith that we stood a chance against “the world’s second army”. Boris Johnson and his Cabinet had that faith.

And here we come to, maybe, the most important part. No, it wasn’t Boris Johnson who rallied behind Ukraine, but the whole nation. The nation that remembered what it meant to stand up to an aggressor. The nation that knows it won’t be the next should Ukraine fall — and still took this war to the heart. The nation that could get rich beyond imagination by being on the good side of Putin and his cronies in the time of their isolation — and nevertheless imposed tough sanctions. When we say, “thank you, Boris”, we mean “thank you, Britain”. But like for the UK, Zelensky and Ukraine are inseparable — so, for Ukraine are the UK and Boris Johnson.

We will never forget Boris taking a stroll through Kyiv with President Zelensky knowing it could be dangerous. We will never forget Boris speaking about Ukraine prevailing when others in Europe spoke merely about “Russia not winning”. We will never forget how in the days of global indecision and cowardice Britain’s voice became the voice of courage. And as history wanted it — it was the voice of Boris Johnson.

Olexander Scherba is a former Ukrainian diplomat and author

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