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PM hails Ukraine for forcing Putin army’s retreat from ‘Kyiv’s gates’

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B

oris Johnson has hailed Ukraine for the “greatest feat of arms of the 21st century” by forcing the Russian army to retreat from “the gates of Kyiv“.

In a powerful speech to Ukraine’s parliament on Tuesday, the Prime Minister heaped praise on the “idomitable” spirit of Ukrainians who fought back against Vladimir Putin’s barbaric invasion.

“You have beaten them back from Kyiv,” he said.

“You have exploded the myth of Putin’s invincibility and you have written one of the most glorious chapters in military history and in the life of your country.

“The so-called irresistible force of Putin’s war machine has broken on the immovable object of Ukrainian patriotism and love of country.”

Breaking into Churchillian rhetoric, he added: “This is Ukraine’s finest hour, that will be remembered and recounted for generations to come.

“Your children and grandchildren will say that Ukrainians taught the world that the brute force of an aggressor counts for nothing against the moral force of a people determined to be free.

REUTERS

“They will say that Ukrainians proved by their tenacity and sacrifice that tanks and guns cannot suppress a nation fighting for its independence, and that is why I believe that Ukraine will win.”

He emphasised that Ukrainian forces had “fought with the energy and courage of lions”.

Slipping back into more colloquial terms, he stressed: “You have proved the old saying – it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog – which is an old English saying, I’m not sure how well that translates in Ukrainian but you get what I’m trying to say.”

Mr Johnson, who was given a standing ovation as the first leader from the West to address Ukraine’s Parliament since the Russian invasion started on February 24, announced that Britain would send a further £300 million of military support, having already sent or pledged thousands of anti-tank weapons and armoured vehicles.

The UK is also supplying Brimstone anti-ship missiles and Stormer anti-aircraft systems.

As Mr Putin intensifies his attacks in the Donbas region, Mr Johnson added on day 69 of the war: “It is precisely because of your valour your courage your sacrifice that Ukrainians now control your own destiny.

“You are the masters of your fate, and no-one can or should impose anything on Ukrainians.”

He also tore into the Russian president’s “historic folly” of invading Ukraine, mistakenly believing his troops would be welcomed as liberators.

He added: “As you turned the Russian army back from the gates of Kyiv, you not only accomplished the greatest feat of arms of the 21st century, you achieved something deeper and perhaps equally significant.

“You exposed Putin’s historic folly, the gigantic error that only an autocrat can make.

Andrew Parsons/No10 Downing St

“Because when a leader rules by fear, rigs elections, jails critics, gags the media, and listens just to sycophants, when there is no limit on his power – that is when he makes catastrophic mistakes.”

Mr Putin’s lightning invasion plan, which included seizing Kyiv within days, failed spectacularly and he has now refocused his military campaign on the Donbas in eastern Ukraine where his forces are unleashing indiscrimate shelling and air strikes on towns, cities and villages.

However, Ukrainian forces have defied predictions by forcing back Russian troops from around Kyiv and northern Ukraine and are now putting up fierce resistance in the Donbas.

More than 15,000 Russian troops are already believed to have been killed.

Mr Johnson also warned that Mr Putin and his military commanders could face a war crimes tribunal.

“In the south and the east of your wonderful country, Putin continues with his grotesque and illegal campaign to take and hold Ukrainian soil,” he told Ukrainian MPs.

“And his soldiers no longer have the excuse of not knowing what they are doing

“They are committing war crimes, and their atrocities emerge wherever they are forced to retreat – as we’ve seen at Bucha, at Irpin at Hostomel and many other places

“We in the UK will do whatever we can to hold them to account for these war crimes and in this moment of uncertainty, of continuing fear and doubt, I have one message for you today: Ukraine will win. Ukraine will be free.”

However, he also highlighted the dreadful impact of the conflict on millions of people who have been forced to flee their homes, as well as the thousands killed by indiscriminate Russian shelling and air strikes.

“Today, at least one Ukrainian in every four has been driven from their homes,” he said.

REUTERS

“And it is a horrifying fact that two thirds of all Ukrainian children are now refugees, whether inside the country or elsewhere.

“So no outsider like me can speak lightly about how the conflict could be settled, if only Ukraine would relinquish this or that piece or territory or we find some compromise for Vladimir Putin.”

Speaking earlier on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Mr Johnson said that Britain is leading the world in supporting Ukraine to fight back against being “overwhelmed and obliterated”.

He said: “What the UK is doing, has done since the crisis began, is lead the world in helping the Ukrainians to protect themselves against wanton aggression, barbaric aggression by Vladimir Putin.”

Downing Street said the new military package it will include electronic warfare equipment, a counter battery radar system, GPS jamming equipment and thousands of night vision devices, with anti-tank missiles and armoured vehicles having already been sent. The Government has also pushed for tighter sanctions against the Kremlin’s regime.

The Government has seen public backing for its handling of the Ukraine war rise sharply as it has sent more weapons for Mr Zelensky’s military forces, a new poll revealed.

The Ipsos survey for the Standard showed 58 per cent of adults in Britain are satisfied with the way the Government is responding to Mr Putin’s invasion, up from 46 per cent in March.

Dissatisfaction levels have fallen from 38 per cent to 30 per cent, giving a net score of +28, compared to +8 last month.

Gideon Skinner, head of political research at Ipsos, said: “We have seen Britons follow the events in Ukraine closely, with a lot of concern over its impact on Ukrainians and on the UK, and support for diplomatic and economic interventions (even if there are misgivings about more direct military action). And now we have seen satisfaction with the way the Government has responded to the invasion grow as it aims to take a lead internationally in providing support for Ukraine.”

Ipsos interviewed 1,006 adults across Britain between April 20 and 28. Data are weighted.

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