PM says UK will ‘continue to intensify’ efforts to assist Ukraine

·5-min read
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Rob Pinney/PA) (PA Wire)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Rob Pinney/PA) (PA Wire)

Boris Johnson has said the UK will “continue to intensify” efforts to assist Ukraine for as long as the help is needed.

Addressing a fundraising event hosted by the Ukrainian embassy in London on Thursday, the Prime Minister insisted Russian president Vladimir Putin will “never break” the spirit of the Ukrainian people, Downing Street said.

No 10 said the aim of the event, titled “Brave Ukraine”, was to raise vital funds for the humanitarian response to the conflict, adding that Mr Johnson listened to a virtual address by Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky before delivering a short speech of his own.

The PM said it was “a blessing for Ukraine and for the world” and “a disaster for Putin” that Mr Zelensky was leading in Kyiv, describing the Ukrainian president as “truly one of the most incredible leaders of modern times”.

“It is almost exactly 80 years ago, 1942, that the BBC first broadcast Shostakovich’s Leningrad symphony to the world,” he said.

We will continue to intensify this effort for as long as Ukraine wants and needs our help

Boris Johnson

“This was played by a half-starving orchestra during the siege of Leningrad, while it was being pounded by the Nazis, and that symphony became a symbol of resistance to fascism, and the power of the human spirit.

“I do not know whether Vladimir Putin is a Shostakovich buff or not, but is it not a tragic irony that a Russian leader, himself from Leningrad, should now be laying waste to cities in Ukraine as Volodymyr has just described.”

He went on to say that “no matter what Putin tries to do to Ukraine’s people … he will never break their spirit”.

“He will never overcome those indomitable armed forces, who have already repelled the Russian army from the gates of Kyiv, and therefore achieved the greatest feat of arms of the 21st century,” he said.

“That is why I’m more certain than ever that Ukraine will win. Ukraine will be free, and a sovereign Ukraine will rise again.

“And it’s because this struggle is so clear cut, and without any moral ambiguity that I can see, a struggle between freedom and oppression, between democracy and tyranny, independence and imperialism, light and darkness, good and evil, that is why I think it speaks so deeply to us.”

Mr Johnson said that is why there are “blue and yellow flags flying everywhere” in the UK – “from town halls and church spires and front gardens and children’s playgrounds”.

He said the UK will “continue to intensify” efforts to assist Ukraine for as long as the country wants and needs the help.

“When Russian troops were massing on the frontiers of Ukraine in January, we were among the first European countries to send anti-tank missiles,” he said.

“I want you to know, and I told Volodymyr this earlier on today in our conversation, we will continue to intensify this effort for as long as Ukraine wants and needs our help.

“And it is precisely because the Ukrainian people refused to surrender and precisely because they resisted so heroically that their suffering today is so severe.”

He added: “Putin has driven at least one Ukrainian in every four from their homes, including two-thirds of all Ukrainian children.

“And just as we must help Ukraine to defend herself against aggression, so we must also do everything we can to ease the terrible burden of suffering imposed on an innocent people.”

Ralph Goodale, the Canadian High Commissioner to the UK, said that Mr Zelensky had spoken “very eloquently” at the event, and donated his “famous fleece jacket” for auction.

Mr Johnson concluded his speech by calling on attendees to take part in the bidding for charity, suggesting that the fleece could go for “a snip at £50,000”.

“Whether you are bidding for Volodymyr’s fleece – a snip at £50,000, I want much higher bids than that, or you are bidding for a tour of Kyiv with Mayor Klitschko, I have had a tour of Kyiv with Mayor Klitschko, it’s a beautiful city. Well worth it, dig deep,” he said.

“Support Ukraine tonight my friends so that that great ancient European capital Kyiv can never be threatened again, and that Ukraine can be whole and free once more.”

Earlier, the head of the British military said Mr Putin was trying to rush to claim victory in Ukraine as Russian forces continued to struggle for momentum.

In an interview with TalkTV’s The News Desk, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, Chief of the Defence Staff, said there was “incredible pressure” in Russia for the campaign to deliver results.

After 10 weeks of fighting, however, he said the rate at which Russian forces were using missiles and other armaments meant Mr Putin was engaged in a “logistics war” to keep them supplied.