‘This is Ukraine’s finest hour,’ Boris Johnson tells Kyiv parliament in address

Ukrainian ambassador appeals to Priti Patel to relax visa scheme for refugees

British prime minister Boris Johnson has told Ukrainian legislators that the war in their country is a battle between good and evil and that they had exploded the myth of Vladimir Putin's invincibility. Mr Johnson received successive standing ovations as he addressed the Verkhovna Rada in Kyiv by video link, the first foreign leader to do so since the war began.

“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,” he said.

Supplying weapons

Mr Johnson announced a new package of military support worth £300 million (€356 million), including radars to identify Russian artillery, heavy lift drones to supply Ukrainian forces and thousands of night-vision devices. He said Ukraine’s allies would continue supplying weapons until the country was so fortified “that no one will ever dare to attack you again”.

Mr Johnson said he had never believed the predictions before the war that Russian armour would be an irresistible force and that Kyiv would fall within days.

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"Your farmers kidnapped Russian tanks with their tractors. Your pensioners told Russian soldiers to hop as we say, although they may have used more colourful language. Even in the parts of Ukraine that were temporarily captured, your populations, your indomitable populations turned out to protest, day after day. And though your soldiers were always outnumbered – three to one it is now – they fought with the energy and courage of lions," he said.

“You have beaten them back from Kyiv. 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.”

Visa scheme

While Mr Johnson was receiving standing ovations from Ukraine's parliamentarians, the country's ambassador to Britain appealed to home secretary Priti Patel to relax the visa scheme for refugees fleeing the war. Of the 74,700 Ukrainians who have applied for visas under the scheme, only 15 per cent have arrived in Britain and Vadym Prystaiko said now was the time for a temporary relaxation of the rules to relieve people from what he called "these unnecessary, long, bureaucratic and difficult bureaucratic procedures".

Labour has supported the government throughout the war in Ukraine and Keir Starmer suggested on Tuesday that he could expel MPs who were critical of Nato.

“We’ve been very clear about the expectations of our members of parliament when it comes to issues like anti-Semitism, when it comes to the false equivalence that some argue between Russian aggression and the acts of Nato,” he said.

“These are principles that are absolutely the root of the Labour Party, the centre of the Labour Party, and I’m determined that the Labour Party will face the electorate and not the sort of internal machinations and arguments that we have had too much of in the past.”

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is London Editor of The Irish Times