British PM makes surprise visit to Kyiv, meets Zelenskyy

British Prime Minister’s visit follows UK pledge of more sophisticated military equipment to fight Russia.

Johnson meets Zelenskyy
Image of Johnson and Zelenskyy tweeted by the Embassy of Ukraine to the UK, April 9, 2022.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, a surprise visit to the war-scarred capital following the UK pledge to provide more than $130 million in sophisticated weaponry to Ukraine on Friday.

The Ukraine embassy in the UK tweeted a picture of the two leaders meeting with a one-word caption: “Surprise”.

Andriy Sybiha, deputy head of the Ukrainian president’s office, also announced the meeting in a Facebook post, saying the two had a “one-on-one meeting” in Kyiv.

Downing Street described Johnson’s visit as a “show of solidarity with the Ukrainian people”, and said the talks with the Ukrainian president would focus on long-term support for the country and new financial and military aid.

Johnson announced on Friday that the UK would send additional Starstreak anti-aircraft missiles, 800 anti-tank missiles, and other “high-grade military equipment” worth $130 million to support the Ukrainian army’s fight against Russia.

The prime minister linked a vicious attack on Kramatorsk train station in eastern Donetsk region, where at least 52 people were killed on Friday by Russian bombing, to his latest pledge of military support to the Kyiv government.

Russia’s attack on the train station “shows the depths to which [Vladimir] Putin’s once-vaunted army has sunk”, Johnson told reporters alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who called the Russian strike “atrocious”.

Johnson met the German leader at Downing Street as European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell visited Ukraine.

President Zelenskyy called for a “firm global response” to the missile attack on the station, which was crowded with women, children and the elderly.

Local officials estimate that about 4,000 people were gathered there at the time of the bombing.

Russia’s defence ministry denied responsibility for the attack, saying in a statement the missiles that hit the station were used only by Ukraine’s military and that Russia’s armed forces had no targets assigned in Kramatorsk on Friday.

All statements by the Ukrainian authorities on the attack were “provocations”, the ministry said.

“Stand Up For Ukraine”, a global aid pledging event for Ukrainian refugees, raised $11 billion on Saturday.

Convened by EU officials and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the “Stand Up For Ukraine” campaign raised the money to support internally displaced people and refugees who have fled the country. More than 4.4 million refugees have left Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on February 24.

The fund-raising event comprised a social media rally on Friday and a pledging conference on Saturday.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies