In show of support, British PM meets Ukraine's Zelenskiy in Kyiv
KYIV (Reuters) - Britain's Boris Johnson, one of Ukraine's staunchest backers, flew to Kyiv on Saturday to pledge tighter sanctions on Russia and offer President Volodymyr Zelenskiy more defensive arms, a move the Ukrainian leader said others should follow.
At a meeting shrouded in secrecy until Johnson appeared in the Ukrainian capital, the two leaders cemented the close ties they have nurtured since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. The move caps weeks of lobbying by Johnson to meet Zelenskiy.
With both men standing at podiums in front of cameras, they praised each other for their cooperation since the Russian invasion, which Moscow calls a "special operation" to demilitarise and "denazify" its neighbour. Zelenskiy rejects the description, saying Russia is bent on destroying his country.
"We must put more and more pressure on the Russian Federation, work harder to help the people of Ukraine defend it against the Russian Federation, and step up sanctions," Zelenskiy said.
"Other democratic Western states should follow the example of Great Britain. It's time to impose a complete ban on Russian energy supplies, and increase the delivery of weapons to us."
Johnson replied: "Together with our partners, we are going to ratchet up the economic pressure and we will continue to intensify, week by week, the sanctions on Russia."
He added that the measures would include moving away from the use of Russian hydrocarbons.
Earlier, his Downing Street office said Britain would provide the country with 120 armoured vehicles and new anti-ship missile systems.
Johnson's aides say the two leaders have spoken almost daily since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
The British leader, under pressure over alleged parties at his Downing Street residence during a COVID-19 lockdown, has been vocal in his support of Zelenskiy.
Earlier on Saturday, the Ukrainian leader's office published pictures showing the two men chatting across a table.
Johnson met Zelenskiy "in a show of solidarity with the Ukrainian people", a Downing Street spokesperson said.
On Zelenskiy's Telegram channel, Johnson was described as "one of the most principled opponents of the Russian invasion, a leader in putting sanctions on Russia and providing defensive support to Ukraine".