If Boris Johnson’s premiership has an enduring legacy, it is the unstinting support he has given to Ukraine in its war with Russia — a fact that was much in evidence when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made London his first port of call during his tour of European capitals.
The primary purpose of Zelensky’s Europe visit was to lobby European leaders to provide Ukraine with much-needed warplanes to shore up Kyiv’s ability to defend itself against another major Russian offensive, which military experts predict will take place in the coming weeks.
But by making Britain the first destination on his European itinerary, Zelensky was signalling the lead role the UK has played in making sure its European allies remain steadfast in the support for the Ukrainian cause.
It was a role, moreover, that was forged under Johnson’s premiership, a fact that was very much in evidence as the Ukrainian leader enjoyed all the attributes of a state visit.
Red carpet reception
After receiving a red carpet reception from British prime minister at Downing Street, the Ukrainian leader then travelled to Buckingham Palace for an audience with King Charles before delivering a speech to both Houses of Parliament in Westminster Hall.
But while it was Sunak who posed for the official photographs with the president, Johnson’s pivotal role in forging such close ties between London and Kyiv was evident when Zelensky made a point of name-dropping the former premier in his speech for the support he showed as Russia launched its invasion.
“London has stood with Kyiv since day one, from the first seconds and minutes of the full-scale war,” said Zelensky.
“Great Britain, you extended your helping hand when the world had not yet come to understand how to react. Boris, you got others united when it seemed absolutely impossible. Thank you.”