Boris Johnson makes a second surprise visit to Kyiv

LONDON – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday paid a second surprise visit to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, offering a training program for the country’s military in a new demonstration of support for the Ukrainian government just a day after key European leaders made the trip.

During the visit, Mr. Johnson promised a new aid package with the potential to train up to 10,000 troops every 120 days and to provide the “strategic resilience” needed to drive out Russian forces.

Britain has already provided broad military support to Ukraine. At a press conference, Mr. Johnson said Britain would help the Ukrainian military “do what I believe Ukrainians long for, and that is to drive the aggressor out of Ukraine.”

Mr. Johnson said each Ukrainian soldier would spend three weeks on a course that would provide training in frontline combat skills, medical techniques, cybersecurity and anti-explosive tactics.

The two leaders also discussed how Britain could help end Russia’s naval blockade, which is hampering grain exports, Downing Street said, without giving further details. There has been speculation that Britain could provide ships, although the government has so far said it has not made any decisions.

After recently surviving a vote of no confidence among his own deputies, Mr. Johnson can hope that his visit to Kyiv could boost his own popularity after more bad news this week.

Mr. Johnson, one of the most responsible supporters of the Ukrainian government in the world, has strong ties with President Vladimir Zelensky and visited him in April.

Although not the first foreign leader to travel to Ukraine since the Russian invasion, he was among the earliest to receive a warm welcome in Kyiv during the trip, which was considered a diplomatic success.

Mr. Johnson’s government offered weapons as well as diplomatic support to Ukraine, and was identified by the Russian government as hostile to Moscow. In Ukraine, the prime minister’s unwavering support for military efforts has made him something of a national hero, unlike his position at home, where he is fighting for political survival. (A street in Odessa and a special cake in Kyiv are named after him.)

Mr. Johnson’s visit follows that of President Emmanuel Macron of France, Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany and Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy. They offered their support for Ukraine to become a candidate for membership in the European Union, an issue that will be considered by the bloc’s 27 leaders next week. Referring to the decision of the European Commission on Friday to recommend approval of this step, Mr. Zelenski described it as a “historic moment” for his country.

Britain left the European Union, so her help for Mr. Zelenski is more focused on the supply of weapons and other support.

Although Mr. Johnson’s visit came as a surprise, with rumors circulating when he unexpectedly canceled a potentially heavier commitment to speak with some of his own lawmakers – a significant minority of whom tried unsuccessfully last week to remove him – for no apparent reason.

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