Boris Johnson pledges new military assistance for Ukraine after UK PM’s surprise visit to Kyiv

Johnson and Austrian Foreign Minister Karl Nehammer paid separate visits to Zelensky on Saturday, the latest in a series of leaders to travel to the country during the ongoing Russian invasion.

A photograph tweeted by the Ukrainian Embassy in the UK showed Johnson sitting across from Zelensky at a table in a pink and green stuccoed room. The post was captioned with the word “Surprise” and a winking emoji.

The Press Service of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine said on its official Twitter account that the two leaders held talks in kyiv and released several photos of the pair’s previously unannounced meeting.

Johnson posted on Twitter that his visit to kyiv was “a show of our unwavering support for the people of Ukraine” and announced a new financial and military aid package.

“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,” the UK prime minister said in a statement.

He praised Zelensky’s “determined leadership” and the “invincible heroism and courage of the Ukrainian people”, adding that the UK “is unwavering with them in this ongoing fight… we are in it for the long haul.”

After the meeting, Downing Street said the UK government would provide armored vehicles and anti-ship missile systems, “in addition to the £100m worth of high-quality military equipment” announced on Friday.

Zelensky and Nehammer’s meeting was separate from Johnson’s and took place earlier on Saturday, according to Zelensky’s official Telegram channel.

While several other leaders have visited Ukraine in recent weeks, Nehammer’s trip is significant given his country’s neutral status, enshrined in its constitution.
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Austria is not part of NATO and does not supply weapons to Ukraine. However, it has provided Ukraine with humanitarian aid and helmets and protective vests for civilian use, according to a statement from the Austrian Foreign Ministry.

Nehammer said Saturday that while his country is militarily neutral, “we understand that we have to help where injustice and war crimes occur.”

According to his office, Nehammer was scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko before returning to Austria on Saturday night.

Nehammer was also due to visit the kyiv suburb of Bucha, which endured five weeks of almost constant shooting; after Russian forces withdrew from the city, the bodies of at least 20 civilians were found lying in a street, some with their hands tied.
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Nehammer said that Bucha was “a place of war crimes”.

“We have to make these war crimes known to the UN, and international justice must begin to investigate and combat these crimes,” he said during a press conference with Zelensky.

The twin visits by Johnson and Nehammer came a day after senior European Union officials made a trip to Ukraine. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Josep Borrell, the bloc’s top diplomat, visited kyiv and Bucha on Friday, along with Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger.

During the visit, von der Leyen ceremoniously handed Zelensky an EU questionnaire to complete, a symbolic but important step towards Ukraine’s membership in the bloc. Tweeting about the move, von der Leyen said: “We will speed up this process as much as we can, while making sure all conditions are respected.”
The prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovenia visited kyiv last month, at a time when it was still the target of Russian attacks. Like Johnson’s visit on Saturday, that trip was kept secret until the three leaders were in the country, traveling by train from eastern Ukraine.

CNN’s Sarah Dean reported from Przemysl, Poland and Ivana Kottasova wrote in London. CNN’s James Frater, Radina Gigova, Alex Hardie, Tara John and Max Foster contributed to this report.

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