Ukraine’s Zelensky says goodbye to ‘special’ Johnson after PM resigns

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Boris Johnson and Volodymyr Zelensky (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/PA) (PA Media)
Boris Johnson and Volodymyr Zelensky (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/PA) (PA Media)

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked Boris Johnsonfor defending Ukraine’s interests after Russia’s invasion and said his resignation as British prime minister had been met with “sadness” in Kyiv.

The two leaders spoke by phone on Thursday afternoon, hours after Mr Johnson’s government collapsed, following a dramatic 24 hours in Westminster.

“We all heard this news (Johnson’s resignation) with sadness. Not only me, but also the entire Ukrainian society, which is very sympathetic to you,” Zelensky’s office said in a statement after the phone call.

“We have no doubt that Great Britain’s support will be preserved, but your personal leadership and charisma made it special.”

The Ukrainian president has previously called Mr Johnson “our country’s great friend”, and there are fears in Kyiv that now he is on his way out, the next British leader will be less enthusiastic about the war in Ukraine at a time when the UK faces many of its own severe challenges, from a faltering economy to a deepening cost of living crisis.

Earlier, one of the president’s advisers, Mykhailo Podolyak, said the British leader had been instrumental in securing international support for the country and recognising the Russian “monster”.

“To be a leader – to call evil a evil and to take responsibility in the hardest times. To be a leader – to be the first to arrive in Kyiv, despite missile attacks. Thanks @BorisJohnson for realising the threat of RF monster and always being at the forefront of supporting,” said Mr Podolyak on Twitter.

One leading Ukrainian opposition MP, Lesia Vasylenko, told The Independent on Wednesday that Boris Johnson had set a “high benchmark” in his support for Kyiv and that Ukrainians hoped that whichever politician followed him would continue in the same vein.

“Whoever comes after Boris Johnson is going to have a very high benchmark to reach because Johnson, his government and his defence minister set a high standard in terms of the support the British have been providing Ukraine across all sectors, politically and militarily,” she told The Independent.

It is as yet unclear who would replace Mr Johson in any subsequent Tory party leadership election, but frontrunners could include foreign secretary Liz Truss and defence minister Ben Wallace, who have been vocal supporters of Ukraine during the war.

Mr Wallace is seen as one of the front runners.

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