Boris Johnson pledges new military aid to Ukraine after British Prime Minister’s surprise visit to Kyiv

Johnson and Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer paid separate visits to Zelenskyy on Saturday, the latest in a series of leaders to travel to the country amid the ongoing Russian invasion.

A photo tweeted by the Ukrainian embassy in the UK showed Johnson sitting across from Zelensky at a table in a pink and green plastered room. The post featured the word “surprise” and a winking emoji.

The press service of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine said on its official Twitter account that the two leaders held talks in Kyiv and posted several photos of the previously unannounced meeting between the two.

Johnson tweeted that his visit to Kyiv was “a sign of our unwavering support for the people of Ukraine” and announced a new package of financial and military aid.

“Ukraine has defied the odds and pushed back Russian forces at the gates of Kiev in the greatest feat of arms of the 21st century,” the British Prime Minister said in a statement.

He praised Zelenskyy’s “determined leadership” and the “invincible heroism and courage of the Ukrainian people,” adding that Britain “stands steadfastly by his side in this ongoing struggle… we’re in it for the long haul.”

After the meeting, Downing Street said the UK government would provide armored vehicles and anti-ship missile systems “in addition to the £100million high quality military equipment announced on Friday.

Zelensky and Nehammer’s meeting was separate from that with Johnson and took place earlier on Saturday, according to Zelensky’s official Telegram channel.

While several other leaders have visited Ukraine in recent weeks, Nehammer’s trip is significant given his country’s neutral status enshrined in its constitution.
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Austria is not a NATO member and does not supply arms to Ukraine. However, according to a statement from Austria’s Federal Chancellery, it has provided Ukraine with humanitarian aid, as well as helmets and protective vests for civilian use.

Nehammer said on Saturday that while his country is militarily neutral, “we understand that we must help where injustice and war crimes are taking place.”

According to his office, Nehammer was due to meet Prime Minister Denys Schmyhal and Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko before returning to Austria on Saturday night.

Nehammer was also scheduled to visit the Kiev suburb of Bucha, which had been subjected to five weeks of almost continuous firefights; After Russian forces withdrew from the city, the bodies of at least 20 civilians were found in a street, some with their hands tied.
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Nehammer said Bucha was “a place of war crimes”.

“We must bring these war crimes to the attention of the United Nations, and the international judiciary must start investigating and fighting these crimes,” he said during a press conference with Zelenskyy.

Johnson and Nehammer’s dual visits came a day after a trip to Ukraine by senior European Union officials. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Josep Borrell, the bloc’s top diplomat, visited Kyiv and Bucha on Friday along with Slovakian Prime Minister Eduard Heger.

During the visit, von der Leyen ceremoniously handed Zelenskyy an EU questionnaire to fill out – a symbolic but important step on the way to Ukraine’s membership in the bloc. Von der Leyen tweeted about the move: “We will expedite this process as much as possible while ensuring that all conditions are met.”
The prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovenia visited Kyiv last month, at a time when it was still regularly the target of Russian attacks. Like Johnson’s visit on Saturday, this trip was kept secret until the three leaders were in the country, arriving on a train from eastern Ukraine.

CNN’s Sarah Dean reported from Przemysl, Poland, and Ivana Kottasova wrote from London. CNN’s James Frater, Radina Gigova, Alex Hardie, Tara John and Max Foster contributed coverage.

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