Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned the world of “Ukraine fatigue” as he returns from a surprise visit to the war-torn country.
Mr Johnson had pulled out of a scheduled appearance at the Northern Tories conference on Friday to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
He was asked if he timed the visit to dodging a chilly reception from red wall deputies following the partygate scandal, he said it was important to show support for Ukraine at a “particularly critical time”.
Speaking to reporters at RAF Brize Norton on his return, Mr Johnson said it was important to demonstrate UK support at a time when Ukrainians were ‘suffering terribly’ in the face of the ongoing Russian offensive in the Donbass.
“What we fear is that a bit of Ukrainian fatigue is starting to set in around the world,” he said.
It’s important that we show “we’re with them for the long haul” and provide the “strategic resilience they need”, he said.
He warned it would be a “disaster” if Russian President Vladimir Putin won the war.
In talks with President Zelenskyy, Mr Johnson said Britain would be ready to train tens of thousands of Ukrainian troops as they continue to fight the Russians.
He said Ukrainians deserved help to regain territory, but did not call for the recovery of all the land Ukraine had lost since 2014, including Crimea.
The Prime Minister said it was important to prevent the Russians from “freezing” the conflict in order to consolidate their gains before mounting another attack.
“We have to make it clear that we support the Ukrainians in their ambitions (…) to expel the Russians, to expel the armies of Putin, of everything he has obtained since February 24, and to ensure that Ukrainians are not incentivized to leave for a bad peace, something that just won’t last.”
Plagued by challenges at home, Mr Johnson has enjoyed a warm welcome in Ukraine.
Television footage followed Mr Zelenskyy as he showed the Prime Minister the wreckage of burnt-out Russian tanks and other vehicles on display in Kyiv’s St. Michael’s Square.
The Tories are expected to lose a crucial by-election in Wakefield in West Yorkshire on Thursday.
On Wednesday, his ethics counselor, Christopher Geidt, resigned, saying he “could not be party to advice on possible breaches of the law”.
Some hoped the Prime Minister’s attendance at the inaugural Northern Research Group (NRG) conference in Doncaster would be an opportunity for him to mend his relationship with Red Wall MPs after narrowly surviving a recent vote of confidence.
Sky News deputy political editor Sam Coates said organizers of the inaugural meeting were ‘mystified’ by the no-show in Doncaster, but were told there was a ‘good reason’ and that it was “of sufficient importance”.
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