'Ukraine’s Finest Hour': Johnson Echoes Churchill in Speech to Kyiv Parliament

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson echoed Winston Churchill in his address to the Ukrainian parliament on Tuesday, May 3, telling lawmakers, “This is Ukraine’s finest hour that will be remembered and recounted for generations to come.”

Johnson was speaking to delegates of Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada via video link. President Volodymyr Zelensky was also in attendance in Kyiv.

“Your children and your grandchildren will say that Ukrainians taught the world that the brute force of an aggressor counts for nothing against the moral force of a people determined to be free,” Johnson said.

Johnson also announced a new £300 million military aid package to assist Ukraine is resisting the Russian invasion. Credit: Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine via Storyful

Video transcript

- Thank you very much, Mr. President, Volodymyr Zelensky. President Zelensky, Mr. Chairman, members of the Verkhovna Rada, it is a big honor for me to address you, at this crucial moment in history. And I salute the courage with which you are meeting today, the way you have continued to meet in spite of the barbaric onslaught on your freedoms.

Day after day, missiles and bombs continue to rain on the innocent people of Ukraine. And in the South and the East of your wonderful country, Putin continues with his grotesque and illegal campaign to take and hold Ukrainian soil. And his soldiers no longer have the excuse of not knowing what they are doing.

They are committing war crimes. And their atrocities emerge, wherever they are forced to retreat, as we have seen it bucha, at [? Epin, ?] at Hostomel and many other places. And we in the UK will do whatever we can to hold them to account for these war crimes. And in this moment of uncertainty, of continuing fear and doubt about the future, I have one message for you today.

Ukraine will win. Ukraine will be free. And I'll tell you why I believe you will succeed, dear members of the Rada. When they came to me last year, and they said that there was now overwhelming evidence that Putin was planning an invasion, and we could see his battalion tactical groups well over hundreds of them, gathering on the border,

I also, I remember a sense of horror. But also of puzzlement, because I'd been to Kyiv on previous visits. And I actually-- I think I met some of you. And I stood in the [? Maidan ?] and I'd seen the tributes to those who have given their lives to protect Ukraine against Russian aggression. And I've wandered the lovely streets of your capital and I've seen enough about Ukrainian freedom to know that the Kremlin was making a fundamental miscalculation.

A terrible mistake, and I told everybody I knew. Anybody who would listen that Ukraine would fight and Ukraine would be right. And yet, there was some who believed the Kremlin propaganda that Russian armor would be like an Irresistible force going like a knife through butter and Kyiv would fall in days. Do you remember they said that?

And people rang Vladimir and they offered him safe passage out of the country. And he said, no thanks. And they said that this Rada of yours would have to be reformed outside Ukraine, maybe even in Poland or in London, perhaps. And I refused to believe it. And today, you have proved them completely wrong. Every one of those military experts who said that Ukraine would fall.

And your farmers, your farmers kidnapped Russian tanks with their tractors. Your pensioners stood up in the road and told Russian soldiers to hop it, as we say, or they may have used more colorful language than that. And even in the parts of Ukraine that were temporarily captured, your populations, your indomitable populations turned out to protest, day after day.

And though your soldiers were always outnumbered, three to one it is now, they fought with the courage and the energy of lions. And you've beaten them back from Kyiv. You have exploded the myth of Putin's invincibility. And you've written one of the most glorious chapters in military history and in the life of your country.

The so-called Irresistible Force of Putin's war machine has broken on the immovable object of Ukrainian patriotism and love of country. This is Ukraine's finest hour that will be remembered and recounted for generations to come. Your children and your grandchildren will say that Ukrainians taught the world that the brute force of an aggressor counts for nothing against the moral force of the people, determined to be free.

They will say that Ukrainians proved by their tenacity and sacrifice that guns and tanks cannot suppress a nation fighting for its independence. And that is why I believe and I know that Ukraine will win. You've proved the old saying, it's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog, which is an old English saying. I don't know how well that translates into Ukrainian, but you get what I'm trying to say.

And as you turned the Russian army back from the gates of Kyiv, you not only accomplished one of the greatest feats of arms of the 21st century, you achieve something deeper and perhaps equally significant. You exposed the historic folly that Putin has made. When a leader ruled by fear and when he rigs his elections and when he jailed his critics and he refuses to have a free media and he listens just to sycophants and when there is no limits on his power, that is when he makes catastrophic mistakes.

And it's precisely because we understand this danger in Britain and in Ukraine, precisely because we are democracies. And that we have a free media, the rule of law, free elections, robust parliaments such as your own. We know that these are the best protections against the perils of arbitrary power.

And when an autocrat deliberately destroys those institutions, he might look as though he's strong and some people might even believe it, but he's sowing the seeds of catastrophe for himself and for his country because there will be nothing to prevent him committing another terrible mistake. Putin's mistake was to invade Ukraine. And the carcasses of Russian armor littering your fields and streets are monuments, not only to his folly but to the dangers of autocracy, itself.

And what he has done is an advertisement for democracy. On a day when Putin thought he would be in charge of Kyiv, I had the honor of being able to visit your wonderful city. And I saw the defiance of the people of Ukraine. And I know so much about the terrible price that Ukrainians have paid and are paying for your heroism.

Today, at least one Ukrainian in every four has been driven from their homes. Two thirds of all Ukrainian children are now refugees, whether inside the country or elsewhere. So no outsider like me can speak lightly about how this conflict could be settled. If only Ukraine would relinquish this or that piece of territory, or we find some compromise for Vladimir Putin.

And we know what happens to the people who are left behind in the clutches of this invader. And we who are your friends must be humble about what happened in 2014 because Ukraine was invaded before, for the first time, and Crimea was taken from Ukraine. And the war in the Donbass began. And the truth is that we were too slow to grasp what was really happening.

And we collectively failed to impose the sanctions then that we should have put on Vladimir Putin. And we cannot make the same mistake again. And it's precisely because of your valor, your courage, your sacrifice, that Ukrainians now control your own destiny. And you are the masters of your fate. And no one can or should impose anything on Ukrainians.

And all I will say is that we in the UK will be guided by you and we are proud to be your friends. And I'm proud that our ambassador, Melinda Simmons, is back in Kyiv-- I know you know Melinda-- to reopen our embassy. And in January of course, as you were kind enough to say, Mr. Chairman, Just before Putin launched his onslaught, we sent you planeloads of anti-tank missiles.

The [INAUDIBLE], which I think have now become popular in Kyiv and elsewhere. And we have intensified that vital effort. Working with dozens of countries helping to coordinate an ever bigger supply line. And we are sending many thousands of weapons of every kind, including tanks now and armored vehicles.

In the coming weeks, we in the UK will be sending you brimstone anti-ship missiles and stallmer anti-aircraft systems. And we're providing armored vehicles to evacuate civilians from areas under attack and protect officials-- what Vladimir mentioned to me in our most recent call-- protect officials while they maintain critical infrastructure. I can announce today from the UK government a new package of support, totaling 300 million pounds, including radars to pinpoint the artillery bombarding your cities.

Heavy lift drones to supply your forces and thousands of night vision devices. We will carry on supplying Ukraine-- alongside your other friends-- with weapons, funding and humanitarian aid until we have achieved our long term goal, which must be so to fortify Ukraine. That no one will ever dare attack you again.

Here in the UK, in my country, you will see Ukrainian flags flying everywhere. From church spires, and in shop windows. You see Ukrainian ribbons on the lapels of people up and down the country. And there are many reasons why your country has evoked such astonishing sympathy in the British people.

It's a conflict that has no moral ambiguities or gray areas. This is about the right of Ukrainians to protect themselves against Putin's violent and murderous aggression. It's about Ukraine's right to independence and national self-determination against Putin's deranged imperialist [INAUDIBLE] It's about Ukrainian democracy against Putin's tyranny.

It's about freedom versus oppression. It's about right versus wrong. It is about good versus evil. And that is why Ukraine must win. And when we look at the heroism of the Ukrainian people, and the bravery of your leader, Vladimir Zelensky, we know that Ukraine will win.

And we in the UK will do everything we can to restore a free sovereign and independent Ukraine. Thank you all very much for listening to me today. And Slava Ukraine, thank you.

Thanks, everybody. Good luck. We're with you.

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