Zelensky dismisses Putin as a ‘nobody’ but hails ‘special bond’ with Johnson

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky branded Vladimir Putin a “nobody” as he suggested it is too late for face-to-face talks with the Russian leader to make any difference.

Mr Zelensky, who turned 45 on Wednesday, also praised his “special bond” with Boris Johnson but declined to say whether he would like to see him return as prime minister one day.

In an interview with Sky News, Mr Zelensky described the Russian president as a “man who said one thing and then did another” as he said he is not interested in meeting him.

Speaking in English, he said: “It is not interesting for me. Not interesting to meet, not interesting to speak. Why? Because we had meeting with him in Normandy Format, it was before full-scale invasion.

“I saw the man who said one thing and then did another. So for me, I can’t understand – is it his decisions or somebody else? So to meet what – to shake hands? Not interesting. To speak? I really don’t understand who makes decisions in Russia.”

Asked if it is too late for one-on-one talks with Mr Putin to prove useful in resolving the war, Mr Zelensky said: “Too late, not interesting. Who is he now? After full-scale invasion, for me he is a nobody.”

The interview also saw the wartime leader quizzed on his relationship with Mr Johnson, who, following the invasion last year, quickly became one of the most vocal backers of Ukraine on the world stage.

Since leaving Downing Street, he has continued to offer wholehearted support to Mr Zelensky and has called on Western allies to arm Ukraine with the resources it needs to help end the war.

Mr Zelensky declined to say whether Mr Johnson should get an official role representing the UK on Ukraine, appearing to laugh at the suggestion and indicating that the former PM might not be ready for such a role.

“He is good guy,” he said. “Who knows? With pleasure, with pleasure, really.”

But he declined to say whether he would like to see Mr Johnson enter Downing Street again, instead praising his “good relations” with Rishi Sunak.

“I think that is not correct for me to support Johnson to be prime minister.

“We have good relations with Sunak. I think we had more long relations with Johnson, because it was more long-time.

“I saw Johnson in different situations, I saw him not in war and then in full-scale war – that’s why we have special relations.”

The Ukrainian leader also used the interview to warn there must be no delay in the US and Germany sending tanks to the country.

Germany Ukraine Tanks
Olaf Scholz talks to soldiers with a Leopard 2 tank (Moritz Frankenberg/dpa/AP)

In a major breakthrough, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz this week approved the supply of Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv, while the US confirmed it will send 31 M1 Abrams tanks.

The UK had already become the first Western nation to promise main battle tanks, with around 14 Challenger 2s pledged by Mr Sunak.

Mr Zelensky said: “Overall I am grateful to the world for their support of Ukraine. But if we are talking frankly and honestly with you, the number of tanks and delivery time are of crucial and critical importance, in comparison to the decision that has been made.

“We have approved cases of weapons to be sent to us, but we still haven’t received them.

“Sometimes the delivery of the weapons takes months, you understand?”

He said he does not blame anyone, but added that “a sense of relief comes only after the weapons, which our partners give us, are already being used by our army”.

Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg warned that Russia is planning a fresh offensive, as he said sending tanks to Ukraine will make a “big difference” to the country’s ability to win the war.

“This will help them repel Russian offensives, to help them to be able to retake territory, liberate more Ukrainian lands and to win this war to prevail as a sovereign independent nation. We will stand by Ukraine for as long as it takes,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

He would not explicitly say he is pressing for Nato countries to give Ukraine the 300 tanks it says will help win the war, as he separately warned that the West needs to be “prepared for a new Russian offensives”.

Jens Stoltenberg visit to UK
Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said sending tanks to Ukraine will make a ‘big difference’ to the country’s ability to win the war (James Manning/PA)

“We have no indication that President Putin has changed his goals when it comes to the war,” he told Sky News.

On the same programme, Commons Defence Committee chairman Tobias Ellwood urged Western countries to do more to back Ukraine.

“There is nothing the West has done to date that threatened Moscow’s agenda.

“We’re now starting to talk with the political will to actually give Ukraine the necessary hardware that it can start to fight back, but it’s taken a full year to muster this hardware,” the Tory MP said.