Former British prime minister Johnson visits Kyiv Former British prime minister Johnson visits Kyiv  (ANSA)

'Great pain' remembered as Britain's ex-premier Johnson visits Ukraine

Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Ukraine on Sunday after the Western NATO military alliance failed to unite on sending tanks to the wartorn nation over the weekend.

By Stefan J. Bos

"You do me too much honor," shouted Johnson as he rushed to President Volodymyr Zelensky on a cold winter morning in Kyiv. Though no longer prime minister, Johnson was awaited by the president and other officials standing in line.    

He met Zelensky when the Ukrainian leader faced advancing Russian troops and mercenaries. Johnson was already awarded the honorary 'Citizen of Kyiv' medal last week by the Ukrainian capital's mayor, Vitali Klitschko.

While being greeted by Zelensky in Kyiv, Johnson recalled the horrors he saw earlier Sunday while walking through nearby Borodyanka and Bucha. Both towns were attacked in the early parts of Russia's invasion, which began in February.

"I saw some of the destruction. I saw the forests filled..." Johnson recalled referring to massacres and massive damage blamed on Russia. "The results of attacks," added President Zelensky.    

Johnson used his controversial visit to hint at his support for sending more tanks to Kyiv, saying, "This is the moment to double down and to give the Ukrainians all the tools they need to finish the job."

His statement came after NATO failed to unite over the weekend on providing tanks to Ukraine. That dampened Kyiv's hopes of launching a spring offensive against invading Russian forces.

After over five hours of talks with allies at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Friday, disagreements remained with the German government not allowing its tanks to be sent to Ukraine.

Washington has also been reluctant to send its tanks, which it claimed would be too difficult and costly to operate. So instead, Ukrainian troops must rely on a few tanks Britain pledged to send and 200 Canadian personnel carriers.

And there was more bad news for Kyiv, with the U.S. military warning it would be tough to drive Russia's invading forces from the country this year.

Ukraine was hit especially hard last week, with dozens of people confirmed dead after a Russian missile attack on an apartment block in the eastern city of Dnipro. Separately Ukraine's president lost the interior minister,  Denis Monastyrsky, who was a long-time advisor, and other officials among at least 14 people killed after a helicopter crashed near a kindergarten outside Kyiv.

And there were no signs that Ukrainian forces were facing an uphill battle against Russian forces around the eastern town of Soledar, where both sides suffered heavy casualties.

Moscow made clear it didn't intend to end its invasion soon. Over the weekend, the Kremlin told the NATO alliance that supplying tanks to Ukraine would not help and that the West would regret its so-called "delusion" that Kyiv could win on the battlefield.

Yet Pope Francis hasn't given up hope that peace will arrive in this troubled land, saying Sunday that he prayed "the Lord might give the people in Ukraine comfort and support" in a war that has been raging for nearly a year.

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22 January 2023, 16:21