London, 5 September 2022 (PA Media/dpa/MIA) – Outgoing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will “stay in close touch as friends” when the prime minister’s tenure draws to a close, Downing Street has said.
The leaders, who have been firm allies throughout the conflict waged by Russia on its neighbour, shared a call on Monday afternoon, the day before the the formal appointment of the new PM.
Johnson thanked Zelensky for his “leadership and friendship” and said it had been “a privilege to work with him and support him.”
The outgoing prime minister has made several visits to the Ukrainian capital, the most of recent of which was last month, when he set out a further £54-million ($62.2-million) package of military aid.
Zelensky has often spoken warmly of his relationship with Johnson, and heaped praise on his “true friend” and ally as the PM entered his final few days in office.
He said he was “very happy” when Johnson survived a crunch confidence vote in June, and noted even after the PM’s downfall he did not want him to “disappear.”
“I want him to be somewhere in politics in a position to be someone,” he told “Piers Morgan Uncensored” on TalkTV.
Downing Street said Johnson made it clear to Zelensky that he believes the Ukrainian people “can and will win the war.”
“President Zelensky thanked the prime minister for believing in Ukraine and his people and updated on the recent progress of his armed forces in the south of the country,” the PM’s official spokesman said.
“The prime minister said he was convinced the Ukrainian forces could continue to succeed in pushing back Russian forces and added that the UK remains steadfast in its support.
“The prime minister told President Zelensky it had been a privilege to work with him and support him and the leaders agreed to stay in close touch as friends.”
The spokesman said the prime minister did not discuss his successor, Liz Truss, with the Ukrainian leader.
In a tweet following the announcement that Truss had won the Conservative Party leadership contest, Zelensky described Johnson as a “great friend” and thanked him for his “personal bravery.”
Johnson later tweeted that he looked forward to staying friends with Zelensky, as he insisted that Britain would continue to back Ukraine “every step of the way.”
The No 10 spokesman was asked if it was important to Johnson that his last phone call to a world leader as PM was with the Ukrainian president.
He responded: “I think it was very important to the prime minister that he was able to reiterate both his firm belief that a new government will be steadfast in its support for Ukraine and that he as an individual will continue to advocate for President Zelensky and the people of Ukraine even after he has left the office of prime minister.”