TOP STORIES Boris Johnson pays second surprise visit to Kyiv

Boris Johnson pays second surprise visit to Kyiv

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

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

Britain has already provided extensive military support to Ukraine. At a press conference, Mr Johnson said the UK would help the Ukrainian military “do what I think the Ukrainians want to do, which is drive the aggressor out of Ukraine.”

Mr. Johnson said each Ukrainian soldier will spend three weeks on the course, which will provide training in frontline combat skills, medical techniques, cybersecurity and counter-explosive tactics.

The two leaders also discussed how the UK can help end a Russian naval blockade preventing grain exports, Downing Street said, without providing any details. There have been speculations that the UK could provide the ships, though the government says no decisions have been made so far.

Having recently survived a no-confidence vote from his own lawmakers, Mr. Johnson may be hoping that a visit to Kyiv will boost his own popularity after more bad news headlines this week.

Mr. Johnson, who has been one of the most vocal supporters of the Ukrainian government in the world, forged strong ties with President Volodymyr Zelensky and visited the country in April.

While he was not the first foreign leader to travel to Ukraine since the Russian invasion, he was one of the first and received a warm welcome in Kyiv on a trip that was hailed as a diplomatic success.

Mr. Johnson’s government has offered weapons to Ukraine, as well as diplomatic support, and has been singled out by the Russian government as hostile to Moscow. Inside Ukraine, the prime minister’s unrelenting support for the war effort has made him something of a folk hero, in contrast to his position at home, where he fought for political survival. (A street in Odessa and a special confectionery in Kyiv are named after him.)

Mr. Johnson’s visit follows French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi. They have offered their support to Ukraine to become a candidate for European Union membership, a matter to be considered by the bloc’s 27 leaders next week. Referring to the European Commission’s decision Friday to recommend approval of the move, Mr. Zelenskiy called it a “historic moment” for his country.

The UK has left the European Union, so its assistance to Mr. Zelensky is more focused on arms supplies and other support.

While Mr. Johnson’s visit was a surprise, rumors began to circulate when he abruptly canceled a potentially more fraught meeting with some of his own lawmakers – a large minority of whom tried unsuccessfully to oust him last week – without explanation.

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