KYIV (REUTERS) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson lauded Ukraine for its “indomitable” resistance to Russia’s invasion during a surprise visit to Kyiv on Wednesday (Aug 24), and said now was not the time to promote a “flimsy plan for negotiation” with Moscow.
Johnson, who is due to leave office next month, spoke at a joint news conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on his fourth trip to Ukraine this year as Ukraine celebrated 31 years of independence from the Soviet Union.
Johnson, whom Zelensky described as his “dear friend Boris”, said it was vital that Europe keep up its military and economic support for Ukraine even as rising energy and food prices were causing some consumers pain.
“We also know that if we’re paying in our energy bills for the evils of Vladimir Putin, the people of Ukraine are paying in their blood,” Johnson said.
“And that’s why we know we must stay the course. Because if Putin were to succeed, then no country on Russia’s perimeter would be safe, and... (that) would be a green light for every autocrat in the world that borders could be changed by force.”
Johnson’s trip coincided with the six-month anniversary of what Moscow calls its special military operation. It came amid fears that Russia could again launch missiles at major cities in Ukraine to cast a pall over Ukrainian Independence Day.
Air raid sirens sounded several times in Kyiv on Wednesday.
Johnson is due to leave office in less than two weeks, but the two candidates to replace him, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and former finance minister Rishi Sunak, have both pledged to continue Britain’s support for Ukraine.
The outgoing British leader warned against “any creeping attempt to normalise relations with Putin,” especially given growing signs that the Russia offensive was failing and that Putin was racking up what he called colossal losses.
“This is not the time to advance some flimsy plan for negotiation with someone who is simply not interested. You can’t negotiate with a bear while it’s eating your leg,” he said.
His comments came days after Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan urged Zelensky to consider fresh negotiations with Putin on ending the war, building on the positive momentum of a UN-brokered grain export deal.
“To all our friends, I simply say this, we must keep going. We must show as friends of Ukraine that we have the same strategic endurance as the people of Ukraine,” Johnson said.
Johnson has been among Ukraine’s most vocal backers during the war.
Zelensky said it was vital Ukraine and the West did not allow Moscow to seize the momentum in the war.
“We cannot relax, we cannot freeze the conflict, we cannot wait a year, or two, or three... We cannot, under any circumstances, give up the initiative,” Zelensky said.
The Ukrainian leader thanked Johnson for “the uncompromising support for our country from the first days of the full-scale Russian aggression.”