LONDON – Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Ukrainian lawmakers on Tuesday that their heroic defense against the Russian invasion would be considered “Ukraine’s best hour,” citing Winston Churchill’s famous statement about Britons when faced with the Nazi attack at the start of World War II.
In a foreign leader’s maiden speech to the Ukrainian parliament, Mr Johnson polishes his credentials as a staunch supporter of Ukraine and a close ally of its president, Volodymyr Zelensky. In tone and themes, Mr Johnson’s speech reflected a speech Mr Zelensky gave to the UK Parliament in March.
“You have exploded the myth of Putin’s invincibility and you have written one of the most glorious chapters in the military history and life of your country,” said Mr Johnson, referring to Russian President Vladimir V. Putin. “The supposedly irresistible force of Putin’s war machine has broken upon the immovable object of Ukrainian patriotism and patriotism.”
“This is Ukraine’s most beautiful hour, which will be remembered and told for generations to come,” he said in a video speech recorded from Downing Street and broadcast in the House of Representatives.
Mr Johnson insisted that no peace deal with Russia should be forced upon Ukrainians by outsiders. The courage of Ukraine’s citizens, he said, had given the country the right to determine its fate. In addition, he added, the West was slow to understand Putin’s threat when Russia took Crimea in 2014.
“We collectively did not then impose the sanctions that we should have imposed on Vladimir Putin,” he said. “We can’t make the same mistake again.”
Mr Johnson announced that Britain would supply Ukraine with additional weapons, including electronic warfare equipment, a counter-battery radar system and GPS jamming equipment. The package, worth £300 million ($375 million), comes on the heels of a $33 billion pledge in weapons and humanitarian aid that President Biden has asked Congress to approve.
Britain recently announced plans to provide more advanced missile and air defense vehicles to the Ukrainian military, as well as armored vehicles to evacuate civilians from areas under attack. Johnson said Britain had also sent Melinda Simmons, her ambassador to Ukraine, back to her post in Kiev, the capital.
For Mr Johnson, the invitation to address Parliament, known as the Verkhovna Rada, was a significant gesture by Mr Zelensky to a leader with whom he has built a solid relationship over the course of dozens of phone calls. Last month, Mr. Johnson to Ukraine and walked the streets of Kiev with Mr. Zelensky, receiving critical acclaim from both Ukrainians and people at home.
Mr Johnson’s Conservative party faces tough local elections on Thursday and he has yet to escape the shadow of a scandal over his attendance at social gatherings that violated Covid restrictions. But his determined stance on Ukraine has averted some of the glare from its growing domestic woes.