Boris Johnson's Relationship With Volodymyr Zelensky Explained

On July 7, 2022, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his resignation as the Conservative Party leader. Johnson had weathered his fair share of controversies while in office, per NPR, and over time, support from politicians — even in his own party — eroded to the point that a change needed to be made. According to The Washington Post, days before his resignation, members of the Conservative Party held a no-confidence vote which he managed to get through, but it was just a matter of time before his inevitable resignation.

However, while Johnson's popularity has taken a massive hit in the United Kingdom, he's a popular figure in — of all places — Ukraine. During a teleconference, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that he was "very happy" had gotten through the no-confidence vote and that the now-former British Prime Minister was a "true friend of Ukraine."

Johnson was an active supporter of Ukraine as the nation dealt with the Russian Invasion. In April 2022, Johnson even visited Zelensky in the nation's capital city of Kyiv.

Boris Johnson called the Ukraine defense its 'finest hour'

From the outset of Russia's invasion, Johnson was quick to offer his (and his nation's) active support of Ukraine,  according to The Washington Post. In May 2022, Johnson became the first foreign politician to address the Ukrainian government since the invasion began several months earlier, speaking to the nation's politicians via video.

"You have exploded the myth of Putin's invincibility and you have written one of the most glorious chapters in military history and in the life of your country," Johnson said. "The so-called irresistible force of Putin's war machine has broken on the immovable object of Ukrainian patriotism and love of country."

Early on in the conflict, Johnson was a major proponent of transferring weapons to Ukraine. He also referred to the nation's defense against the Russians as their "finest hour," a reference to Winston Churchill's famous speech which included the same line, that the legendary British leader delivered to the House of Commons and on the BBC radio airwaves during World War II (via the Council on Foreign Relations).

Boris Johnson's trip to Kyiv

Given Boris Johnson's quickness to support Ukraine, he and Russian President Volodymyr Zelensky developed a solid relationship. This was on full public display when Johnson made an unannounced visit to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv in April 2022. Johnson and Zelensky took a walk through the city's empty streets, and his presence in the country was only confirmed after the Ukrainian embassy in London tweeted a photo of the two leaders, per BBC.

Johnson released a statement after meeting with Zelensky which praised the Ukrainian President's "resolute leadership and the invincible heroism and courage of the Ukrainian people." In that same, statement, Johnson reiterated his nation's military and economic support for the Ukrainian war effort.

Zelensky and Johnson talked with locals while taking a look around the city, something which appeared to leave a mark on the British leader. "Over the last few hours I've been able to see quite a lot of your beautiful country and it's an amazing country. I've also seen the tragic effects of the war, an inexcusable war, an absolutely inexcusable and unnecessary war."

Boris Johnson and Volodymyr Zelensky's relationship

Boris Johnson made a second, unannounced visit to Ukraine the following June where he once again reiterated his support for the country and praised the resilience shown by the nation's citizens and leaders, per the New York Post, However, just a few weeks later, one of Ukraine's most vocal supporters was on his way out of office amidst a series of scandals. According to NPR, Johnson will remain in office as the nation's prime minister until a new Conservative Party leader is selected.

Just days before Johnson's resignation, Zelensky tweeted that he had held more talks with the British Prime Minister in which he thanked Johnson for the U.K.'s decision to provide £1 billion in security aid to Ukraine. The BBC reported that after Johnson's announcement that he would be leaving office, Zelensky called him to voice his sadness at hearing the news.

Zelensky was reported to have said that "Not only me, but also all of Ukrainian society which sympathises with you a lot," and he thanked Johnsons for the support he offered Ukraine during his time in office.