Disappointment in Ukraine over demise of ally Boris Johnson

While the UK is for once almost united across the political spectrum in its support for Boris Johnson’s departure, there is one country whose citizens are disappointed: Ukraine.

The Prime Minister’s popularity in the country - which has dubbed him “Borys Johnsoniuk” in an affectionate “Ukrainianisation” of his name and where just five days ago, he was made an honorary citizen of the city of Odesa - is starkly at odds with his position on home soil.

Mr Johnson was one of the first Western leaders to visit Kyiv, after war broke out, where he was hailed a hero for his support of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky. He has since made a return visit, where he reiterated British support for the country and announced a training programme for Ukrainian forces which he said could "change the equation" of the war.

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Mr Zelensky described Mr Johnson as a "true friend of Ukraine".

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, walk after their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, last month.Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, walk after their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, last month.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, walk after their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, last month.

The Ukrainian president said: "What Johnson was doing for Ukraine, he was a true friend of Ukraine. He totally supported Ukraine. The UK is on the right side of history.

"I'm sure the policies of the UK towards Ukraine will not be changing. Our relationship obviously gained a lot from Boris Johnson's activities."

Ukrainian MP Oleksiy Goncharenko said: “Boris Johnson! Ukraine is infinitely grateful to you for everything you have done for us. You will forever remain in our history and will be involved in the future victory. Thank you.”

Olexander Scherba, Ukraine’s former ambassador to Austria, admitted he had “disliked” Mr Johnson for leading Britain’s departure from the European Union, but praised him for his support for Ukraine.

He said: “Many of my friends hated Boris Johnson for his role in Brexit. Quite frankly, I disliked him for that too. But my God, he did the right thing about Ukraine. And I’m not sure he would have been able to do it if the UK were still in the EU. Anyways, thank you, Boris!”

Some Ukrainian observers noted that he had worn a pin badge of the Ukrainian flag during his televised resignation speech.

When Mr Johnson survived the confidence vote last month, Mr Zelensky indicated his support for Mr Johnson, who he has often described as a “great friend”.

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However, in the UK, Mr Johnson’s support has been met with some scepticism. Internet memes mocking the prime minister’s perceived motives for the close relationship have circulated on social media this week – of Mr Zelensky on the phone, telling Mr Johnson that he cannot visit again so soon, suggesting that he was using his trips to Ukraine to distract from domestic politics.

Mr Johnson’s popularity in Ukraine, however, is not limited to his political counterparts. Ordinary Ukrainians also took to Twitter to mourn Mr Johnson’s departure.

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One woman, Alexandra Avgusta wrote: “Dear Mr Johnson, you are and you will always be hero and great friend for Ukraine and Ukrainians! You are one of the bravest politicians in Europe! I believe it’s not goodbye, but a new beginning. We love you very much.”

Another, named Aki, wrote: “Thank you, Mr Johnson. You are great man. Always welcome to Ukraine, and don't forget about us.”

However, Russia wasted no time in commenting on Mr Johnson’s departure, with numerous officials rushing to express their delight that the man Kremlin described as “the most active anti-Russian leader.” was to stand down.

Dmitry Medvedev, former Russian president and deputy chair of Russia’s security council, said that Mr Johnson’s resignation was “the logical result of British arrogance and mediocre policy”.

“Ukraine’s best friends are departing. We are waiting for news from Germany, Poland and the Baltic States,” he wrote on Telegram.

“He doesn’t like us. We don’t like him either,” Mr Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said, while Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, said that Mr Johnson had been "hit by a boomerang launched by himself.

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"The moral of the story is: do not seek to destroy Russia,” she added. “Russia cannot be destroyed. You can break your teeth on it - and then choke on them."

The Russian embassy in the UK delivered a more subtle jibe as it tweeted a media headline from last month which quoted Mr Johnson saying he planned to stay on as prime minister until the mid-2030s.

“Something must have gone wrong,” the embassy’s tweet said.

Irish premier Micheal Martin was one of few world leaders to make a public comment on Mr Johnson’s departure.

Mr Martin said: “From a personal perspective, I am conscious that he has been through a difficult few weeks and I extend my best wishes to him and his family for the future.”

He added: “While Prime Minister Johnson and I engaged actively together, we didn’t always agree, and the relationship between our governments has been strained and challenged in recent times.”

Mr Johnson’s relationship with the leaders of many EU countries has been strained since he led Britain’s exit from the bloc.

A spokesperson for the European Commission said that the “political developments” do not change its position on the (Northern Ireland) protocol.

A few hours before Mr Johnson’s official resignation, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern quipped at a foreign policy address in Sydney on Wednesday night that the turmoil faced by the prime minister “is in no way connected to my recent visit” to the UK. However, she did point out that Theresa May’s resignation soon after her trip to London in May 2019 was also not connected to her visit.



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