A prominent Ukrainian opposition deputy has called on Britain’s next prime minister to “do more” for Kyiv than Boris Johnson, as Britain’s premiership looks set to end in disgrace and the appointment of a new prime minister is imminent.
Johnson has been an outspoken ally of Ukraine since its invasion by Russia in February, and President Zelensky has visited Kyiv on two occasions. His last visit came in June when he pledged to train British forces for Ukrainian forces.
The Ukrainian president has dubbed Mr Johnson “the great friend of our country”, and there are fears in Kyiv that once he is gone, the next British leader will be less enthusiastic about war in Ukraine at a time when the UK is facing many of its nations. Harsh challenges, from a faltering economy to a deepening cost-of-living crisis.
Ukrainian opposition MP Lesia Vasylenko said on Wednesday that Boris Johnson has set a “high standard” in his support for Kiev and that Ukrainians hope any politician who follows him will continue in the same vein.
“Whoever comes after Boris Johnson will have a very high standard to reach because Johnson, his government and his defense secretary have set a high standard in terms of the British support to Ukraine in all sectors, politically and militarily,” he told independent.
“Ukrainians hope the new leader will continue this, and even do more,” Ms Vasylenko added.
Ms Vaslenko, a mother of three, vowed to take up arms and defend Kyiv when it came under fierce attack in the early days of the war, which began with Putin’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
She said in June Radio Times That Ukrainians rallied around Mr Johnson when he survived a vote of no-confidence in Westminster and sent their congratulations on social media. She said he was seen as a pivotal figure to help mobilize international support for Ukraine.
Ms Vaslenko added that “international unity” against Russia would be necessary after Johnson left the international stage.
“Only in the international unit – which we believe is led by the UK – can we respond to Moscow,” she said. “We hope the UK can provide leadership in forming a new alliance with countries like the Baltics, Poland and Slovakia who already know what it means to live under Russia’s oppressive regime that destroys people, history, culture and freedom.”
Ukrainian defense officials declined to talk about British domestic policy but expressed gratitude for the UK’s support.
“We are forever grateful to the United Kingdom and Boris Johnson for their support of Ukraine and hope that it will only grow until Ukraine’s complete victory,” said Yuri Sak, adviser to the Minister of Defense.
Johnson’s hopes of staying as Britain’s prime minister looked increasingly slim on Wednesday, as a growing number of ministers, junior ministers and Conservative MPs called for him to resign.
His government has been mired in scandal for months and it appears he has finally lost the support of Tory MPs who have the power to unseat him.
It is unclear who will replace Johnson in any subsequent Conservative leadership election, but among the early candidates are Secretary of State Liz Truss and Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, who have been outspoken supporters of Ukraine during the war.