Boris Johnson has been hailed by Voldymyr Zelensky after secretly taking the train to Kyiv for talks and pledging more weapons to help Ukraine resist the Russian invasion.

The president said the leadership shown by the UK would ‘go down in history’ after meeting the PM face-to-face and staging a walkabout in the capital. 

The premiers have struck up a close relationship, speaking nearly daily on the phone since the crisis erupted. Mr Johnson has been eager to visit Kyiv for weeks, but Downing Street desperately tried to keep the trip under wraps.

A video has emerged showing Mr Johnson on the train from Poland into Ukraine, shedding light on how the high-risk visit was conducted. 

The PM’s presence was intended to be kept secret until he had left the war zone. However, it was mistakenly announced in a mid-afternoon tweet by Ukraine’s embassy to the UK, which posted a picture of the leaders chatting with the caption ‘Surprise’ and a winking face emoji. 

At a joint appearance with Mr Zelensky, Mr Johnson said ‘the Ukrainian people are a lion, and you are its roar’ as he vowed to send Ukraine 120 armoured vehicles and new anti-ship missile systems to help with the battle against Russia.

Footage showed the pair meeting and sitting across a table from each other, their respective flags on the far side. Mr Johnson was wearing a dark suit and Zelensky a khaki overall, his signature attire in public appearances since February 24.

During a walkabout in the heart of Kyiv, they were handed ceramic cockerels that have come to symbolise the resistance to Putin since one survived on the top of a kitchen cabinet following bombing in Borodianka.    

In an address to the Ukrainian people overnight, Mr Zelensky said: ‘The leadership of the united kingdom, in providing our country with all the necessary assistance in terms of defence, as well as leadership in sanctions policy, will go down in history forever.’ 

He said the future of Europe and not just Ukraine’s was at stake. He said Russia’s aggression ‘was not intended to be limited to Ukraine alone’ and the ‘entire European project is a target’.

‘That is why it is not just the moral duty of all democracies, all the forces of Europe, to support Ukraine’s desire for peace,’ Zelensky said. ‘This isa strategy of defence for every civilised state.’   

Security officials gave the green light to the visit after the exhausted and battered Russian forces which have tried to encircle Kyiv were withdrawn by Putin. 

Volodymyr Zelensky said the leadership shown by the UK would ‘go down in history’ after meeting Boris Johnson face-to-face and staging a walkabout in Kyiv 

A video has emerged showing Mr Johnson on the train from Poland into Ukraine, shedding light on how the high-risk visit was conducted

A video has emerged showing Mr Johnson on the train from Poland into Ukraine, shedding light on how the high-risk visit was conducted

Mr Johnson praised the Ukrainian troops’ staunch resistance that has ‘defied odds’ in rebuffing Russia’s advance towards the capital of Kyiv. 

‘I think that the Ukrainians have shown the courage of a lion, and you Volodymyr have given the roar of that lion,’ he said.  ‘The Russians believed Ukraine could be engulfed in a matter of days and that Kyiv would falls in hours to their armies. How wrong they were’. 

Ukraine last night heaped praise on Johnson, with its Parliament declaring: ‘We are strengthening our union of democracies. Be brave, like Boris. Be brave, like Ukraine.’ 

Mr Johnson’s calls with Mr Zelensky over the weeks since the war began are understood to have been emotional, with the pair striking up a close connection.  

A No10 spokesman said the Prime Minister was using the visit to set out a new package of financial and military aid. It came the day after he announced a further £100million worth of UK military assistance for Kyiv’s forces, including anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons and so-called ‘suicide drones’.

Appearing alongside Mr Zelensky in a recorded broadcast clip, Johnson said the West would continue to ‘ratchet up’ sanctions on Moscow as he praised the courage of the Ukrainian resistance. 

Discussing the discovery of civilian bodies in Ukrainian towns, Johnson said the atrocities committed by Moscow’s forces had ‘permanently polluted’ Putin’s reputation.

‘What Putin has done in places like Bucha and Irpin is war crimes that have permanently polluted his reputation and the reputation of his government,’ the Prime Minister added.  

Mr Johnson and Mr Zelensky were handed ceramic cockerels by a woman in Kyiv. They have become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance since one survived bombing in Borodianka

Mr Johnson and Mr Zelensky were handed ceramic cockerels by a woman in Kyiv. They have become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance since one survived bombing in Borodianka 

A cockerel designed by 20th Century Ukrainian artist Prokip Bidasiuk famously survived intact on a kitchen cabinet after bombing in Borodianka, and has come to represent the resistance

A cockerel designed by 20th Century Ukrainian artist Prokip Bidasiuk famously survived intact on a kitchen cabinet after bombing in Borodianka, and has come to represent the resistance 

The Ukrainian government explained the symbolism of the cockerels presented to Mr Johnson and Mr Zelensky

The Ukrainian government explained the symbolism of the cockerels presented to Mr Johnson and Mr Zelensky

Mr Johnson's visit makes him the first G7 leader to visit Kyiv since Putin launched his invasion. The leaders are pictured above at a memorial for the Heavenly Hundred, near Independence Square in the Ukrainian capital

Mr Johnson’s visit makes him the first G7 leader to visit Kyiv since Putin launched his invasion. The leaders are pictured above at a memorial for the Heavenly Hundred, near Independence Square in the Ukrainian capital

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, right, and Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson walk during their meeting in downtown Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, April 9

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, right, and Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson walk during their meeting in downtown Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, April 9

The pair held a press conference together. Boris Johnson told Ukraine's President Zelensky 'the Ukrainian people are a lion, and you are its roar'

The pair held a press conference together. Boris Johnson told Ukraine’s President Zelensky ‘the Ukrainian people are a lion, and you are its roar’

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has travelled to Kyiv to meet President Volodymyr Zelensky in an unannounced visit. A picture shared by the Embassy of Ukraine to the UK on Twitter showed the pair sitting across a table in the country’s capital, with their respective flags in the room

Pictured: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson follows Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky into a building in Kyiv today

Pictured: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson follows Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky into a building in Kyiv today

PM Boris Johnson praised the Ukrainian troops' staunch resistance that has 'defied odds' in rebuffing Russia's advance towards the capital of Kyiv

PM Boris Johnson praised the Ukrainian troops’ staunch resistance that has ‘defied odds’ in rebuffing Russia’s advance towards the capital of Kyiv

A video of Mr Johnson in transit was posted on Facebook by Ukrainian railways spokesman Oleksandr Shevchenko. 

‘I gather you are called the ‘iron people’,’ the PM said. ‘This is not just because of the industry you work in. It also reflects that you are showing the spirit of Ukraine in standing up to the appalling aggression that we are seeing.’

Ukrainian trains have played a key role in evacuating civilians from conflict zones, but they have been targeted by Russian shooting and shelling.

This week 52 people were killed by shelling at a railway station in the eastern city of Kramatorsk as they awaited evacuation.

‘I am so sorry for the loss of some of your colleagues and comrades in Kramatorsk,’ Johnson said.

‘I want to say a massive thank you to all the staff of Ukrainian railways for what you’re doing,’ he added.

‘We in the UK stand in solidarity with you.’ 

Mr Zelensky’s chief diplomatic adviser Igor Zhovkva told Sunday Morning on BBC One that the president had invited Mr Johnson personally.

He told the programme: ‘Any visit that is happening now to the Ukraine is done on the invitation of the president of the Ukraine. Prime Minister Johnson received this invitation and he agreed. It might be a surprise for you but it is not a surprise for us. We were preparing for a while. This visit was very timely and very important in terms of war.’

Mr Zhovkva described Mr Johnson as being ‘very supportive’ during previous discussions before the war began about ‘the potential danger which Russian aggression might have’.

Mr Zhovkva said many leaders are coming to Kyiv with their support now the war has begun but they have to come ‘not only with their show of support but something that will have meaning, which has results’.

He said ‘we had results yesterday because the Prime Minister did not come empty-handed’ and the political leaders talked about many things including military and financial support plus the further ‘rebuilding Ukraine when we will win so it was very timely and helpful’.

Official photos showed Mr Zelensky welcoming the PM in a courtyard in Kyiv, before the pair entered a building for their meeting. 

Mr Johnson later posted his own picture of the meeting on Twitter, saying he was there ‘as a show of our unwavering support for the people of Ukraine’.

After their meeting, Mr Zelensky wrote: ‘The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson is one of the most principled opponents of the Russian invasion, a leader in sanctions pressure on Russia and defence support of Ukraine. Welcome to Kyiv, my friend.’

Following his meeting with the Ukrainian leader, Mr Johnson said in a statement: ‘Ukraine has defied the odds and pushed back Russian forces from the gates of Kyiv, achieving the greatest feat of arms of the 21st century.

‘It is because of President Zelensky’s resolute leadership and the invincible heroism and courage of the Ukrainian people that Putin’s monstrous aims are being thwarted.

‘I made clear today that the United Kingdom stands unwaveringly with them in this ongoing fight, and we are in it for the long run.

‘We are stepping up our own military and economic support and convening a global alliance to bring this tragedy to an end, and ensure Ukraine survives and thrives as a free and sovereign nation.’

As well as the additional equipment Mr Johnson also confirmed further economic support, guaranteeing an additional £385million in World Bank lending to Ukraine, taking total UK loan guarantees to £770million.

Johnson’s visit makes him the first G7 leader to visit Kyiv since Putin launched his invasion, and follows trips to Kyiv by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Friday and the visit of the Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer earlier on Saturday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (right) welcomes British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (left) for a meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, April 9 2022

Mr Zelenskyy speaks in front of protective sandbags during an interview in his office in Kyiv yesterday

Mr Zelenskyy speaks in front of protective sandbags during an interview in his office in Kyiv yesterday

Pictured: Mr Zelensky and Mr Johnson shake hands as they meet in Kyiv on Saturday during an unannounced visit, in a photograph shared by the British Prime Minister on Twitter

Pictured: Mr Zelensky and Mr Johnson shake hands as they meet in Kyiv on Saturday during an unannounced visit, in a photograph shared by the British Prime Minister on Twitter

Johnson was wearing a dark suit and Zelensky a khaki overall, his signature attire in public appearances since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, as the pair met in Kyiv on Saturday (pictured)

Johnson was wearing a dark suit and Zelensky a khaki overall, his signature attire in public appearances since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, as the pair met in Kyiv on Saturday (pictured)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives a thumbs up during a meeting with Ukraine's President, as Russia;s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine April 9, 2022

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives a thumbs up during a meeting with Ukraine’s President, as Russia;s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine April 9, 2022

Mr Zelensky is seen in a meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson this evening in Kyiv

Mr Zelensky is seen in a meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson this evening in Kyiv

After their meeting, Mr Zelensky (pictured sitting across from Boris Johnson, left) wrote: 'The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson is one of the most principled opponents of the Russian invasion, a leader in sanctions pressure on Russia and defense support of Ukraine. Welcome to Kyiv my friend'

After their meeting, Mr Zelensky (pictured sitting across from Boris Johnson, left) wrote: ‘The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson is one of the most principled opponents of the Russian invasion, a leader in sanctions pressure on Russia and defense support of Ukraine. Welcome to Kyiv my friend’

Details of the meeting had not been made public prior to the image's release. The Embassy of Ukraine to the UK was one of the first to share the picture, writing: 'Surprise' with a winking face emoji (pictured)

Details of the meeting had not been made public prior to the image’s release. The Embassy of Ukraine to the UK was one of the first to share the picture, writing: ‘Surprise’ with a winking face emoji (pictured)

A view of destroyed Yuri Gagarin Stadium as Russian attacks continue on Ukraine in Chernihiv, Ukraine on April 09, 2022

A view of destroyed Yuri Gagarin Stadium as Russian attacks continue on Ukraine in Chernihiv, Ukraine on April 09, 2022

A view of destroyed building as Russian attacks continue on Ukraine in Chernihiv, Ukraine on April 9, 2022

A view of destroyed building as Russian attacks continue on Ukraine in Chernihiv, Ukraine on April 9, 2022

Last month, it was reported that the Prime Minister had asked officials to examine the practicality and value of the trip to the Ukrainian capital for talks with his Ukrainian counterpart. 

Since then, Moscow has pulled its forces back from Kyiv and the surrounding area in a bid to refocus its military campaign in the eastern Donbas region.

At the time, security officials were said to be ‘having kittens’ at the prospect of Mr Johnson travelling to a war zone. But a Whitehall source said the Prime Minister ‘wants to go’ if it can be made to work.

The source added: ‘If you set aside the security concerns, which are considerable, the question is whether there is anything additional you could achieve by visiting in person, or whether it would just be a show of solidarity, and whether that is a sufficient goal in itself.’  



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