UK's Johnson meets Ukrainian leader Zelenskyy in surprise visit to Kyiv

British prime minister pledges increased economic and military support to Ukraine.

UK's Johnson meets Ukrainian leader Zelenskyy in surprise visit to Kyiv

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday made an unannounced visit to Ukraine where he held talks with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

According to a government statement, Johnson pledged further military and humanitarian support to Ukraine in its fight against Russia's "special military operation" that began on Feb. 24.

“It is a privilege to be able to travel to Ukraine and meet President Zelenskyy in person in Kyiv today. 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,” Johnson said.

“We are stepping up our own military and economic support and convening a global alliance to bring this tragedy to an end, and ensure Ukraine survives and thrives as a free and sovereign nation,” he added.

The prime minister confirmed further economic support, guaranteeing an additional $500 million (£385 million) in World Bank lending to Ukraine, taking the total loan guarantee to up to $1 billion.

In a joint press conference, Zelenskyy described the visit "a manifestation of strong, significant, constant support of the UK for Ukraine. We appreciate it and will remember it."

He said he briefed Johnson on the progress of peace negotiations with Russia, as well as on the importance of providing Ukraine with security guarantees.

“We hope that in this process London will play a key role in achieving peace in Ukraine, it will be our common victory," he told reporters following the meeting.

The Ukrainian leader thanked the UK for continuing its sanctions on Moscow, and helping Ukraine by strengthening its defense capabilities.

For his part, Johnson praised the courage of Ukrainians in the fight against Russia, saying: "In recent weeks, the world has found new heroes. And these are the citizens of Ukraine."

Johnson claimed war crimes were committed by Russian forces in Bucha, Irpin and other Ukrainian cities, which have dealt a devastating blow to Moscow's reputation.

Johnson’s journey to the Ukrainian capital was made possible after the withdrawal of Russian forces in and around the region of Kyiv. Other European leaders including European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen also met Zelenskyy in recent days.

“The UK is the leader in defense support for Ukraine. The leader in the antiwar coalition. The leader in sanctions against the Russian aggressor,” Andriy Sybiha, deputy head of Ukraine’s president office, said on Facebook.

Johnson’s visit to Ukraine comes a day after the UK announced a new £100 million military aid package to the Ukrainian armed forces that will see the donation of armored vehicles as well as anti-tank and surface-to-air missiles.

The UK has followed its allies in imposing financial sanctions on Russia, along with penalizing President Vladimir Putin, his daughters, and other high-ranking officials.