Boris Johnson

Address to the Parliament of Ukraine

delivered 3 May 2022


President Zelenskyy, Mr. Chairman, Members of the Verkhovna Rada:

It is a big honour for me to address you at this crucial moment in history
and I salute the courage with which you are meeting, the way you have continued to meet, in spite of a barbaric onslaught on your freedoms.

Day after day missiles and bombs continue to rain on the innocent people of Ukraine. In the south and the east of your wonderful country, Putin continues with his grotesque and illegal campaign to take and hold Ukrainian soil.

And his soldiers no longer have the excuse of not knowing what they are doing. They are committing war crimes, and their atrocities emerge wherever they are forced to retreat -- as weíve seen at Bucha, at Irpin at Hostomel and many other places.

We in the UK will do whatever we can to hold them to account for these war crimes and in this moment of uncertainty, of continuing fear and doubt I have one message for you today:

Ukraine will win.

Ukraine will be free.

And I tell you why I believe you will succeed, members of the Rada. When they came to me last year, and they said that the evidence was now overwhelming that Putin was planning an invasion and we could see his Battalion Tactical Groups -- well over 100 of them -- gathering on the border.

I also, I remember a sense of horror but also of puzzlement. Because I had been to Kyiv on previous visits -- and I actually met some of you and I had stood in the Maidan and seen the tributes to those who had given their lives to protect Ukraine against Russian aggression. And Iíve wandered the lovely streets of your capital. And Iíve seen enough about Ukrainian freedom to know that the Kremlin was making a fundamental miscalculation, a terrible mistake. And I told anyone I knew, anyone who would listen that Ukraine would fight and Ukraine would be right.

And yet there were some who believed the Kremlin propaganda that Russian armour would be like an irresistible force going like a knife through butter, and that Kyiv would fall within days. Do you remember they said that? And people rang Volodymyr and offered him safe passage out of the country.

And he said -- no thanks; and that this Rada of yours would have to be reformed outside Ukraine maybe in Poland or even in London perhaps. And I refused to believe it.

And today you have proved them completely wrong, every one of those military experts who said Ukraine would fall. Your farmers kidnapped Russian tanks with their tractors. Your pensioners told Russian soldiers to hop as we say, although they may have used more colourful language. Even in the parts of Ukraine that were temporarily captured, your populations, your indomitable populations turned out to protest, day after day.

And though your soldiers were always outnumbered -- three to one it is now -- they fought with the energy and courage of lions. You have beaten them back from Kyiv. You have exploded the myth of Putinís invincibility and you have written one of the most glorious chapters in military history and in the life of your country. The so-called irresistible force of Putinís war machine has broken on the immoveable object of Ukrainian patriotism and love of country.

This is Ukraineís finest hour,1 that will be remembered and recounted for generations to come. Your children and grandchildren will say that Ukrainians taught the world that the brute force of an aggressor counts for nothing against the moral force of a people determined to be free. They will say that Ukrainians proved by their tenacity and sacrifice that tanks and guns cannot suppress a nation fighting for its independence,
and that is why I believe that Ukraine will win.

You have proved the old saying -- itís not the size of the dog in the fight, itís the size of the fight in the dog2 -- which is an old English saying, Iím not sure how well that translates in Ukrainian but you get what Iím trying to say.

And as you turned the Russian army back from the gates of Kyiv, you not only accomplished the greatest feat of arms of the 21st century, you achieved something deeper and perhaps equally significant. You exposed Putinís historic folly, the gigantic error that only an autocrat can make. Because when a leader rules by fear, rigs elections, jails critics, gags the media, and listens just to sycophants, when there is no limit on his power -- that is when he makes catastrophic mistakes.

And it is precisely because we understand this danger in Britain and in Ukraine -- precisely because we are democracies, and because we have a free media, the rule of law, free elections and robust parliaments, such as your own, we know that these are the best protections against the perils of arbitrary power.

When an autocrat deliberately destroys these institutions, he might look as though he is strong and some people might even believe it, but he is sowing the seeds of catastrophe, for himself and for his country, because there will be nothing to prevent him committing another terrible mistake. Putinís mistake was to invade Ukraine, and the carcasses of Russian armour littering your fields and streets are monuments not only to his folly, but to the dangers of autocracy itself.

What he has done is an advertisement for democracy.

On a day when Putin thought he would be in charge of Kyiv, I had the honour of being able to visit your wonderful city, and I saw the defiance of the people of Ukraine, I know so much about the terrible price that Ukrainians have paid and are paying for your heroism.

Today, at least one Ukrainian in every four has been driven from their homes, and it is a horrifying fact that two thirds of all Ukrainian children are now refugees, whether inside the country or elsewhere. So no outsider like me can speak lightly about how the conflict could be settled, if only Ukraine would relinquish this or that piece or territory or we find some compromise for Vladimir Putin.

We know what happens to the people left in the in clutches of this invader. And we who are your friends must be humble about what happened in in 2014, because Ukraine was invaded before for the first time, when Crimea was taken from Ukraine and the war in the Donbas began. The truth is that we were too slow to grasp what was really happening and we collectively failed to impose the sanctions then that we should have put on Vladimir Putin.

We cannot make the same mistake again.

And it is precisely because of your valour your courage your sacrifice that Ukrainians now control your own destiny: you are the masters of your fate,3 and no-one can or should impose anything on Ukrainians.

We in the UK will be guided by you and we are proud to be your friends. I am proud to say our Ambassador, Melinda Simmons, is back in Kyiv to reopen our embassy.

In January of course -- just before Putin launched his onslaught -- we sent you planeloads of anti-tank missiles, the NLAWS, which I think have become popular in Kyiv. And we have intensified that vital effort, working with dozens of countries, helping to coordinate this ever-bigger supply line, dispatching thousands of weapons of many kinds, including tanks now and armoured vehicles.

In the coming weeks, we in the UK will send you Brimstone anti-ship missiles and Stormer anti-aircraft systems.

We are providing armoured vehicles to evacuate civilians from areas under attack and protect officials -- what Volodymyr mentioned to me in our most recent call -- while they maintain critical infrastructure.

And I can announce today from the UK government a new package of support totalling £300 million, including radars to pinpoint the artillery bombarding your cities, heavy lift drones to supply your forces, and thousands of night vision devices. We will carry on supplying Ukraine, alongside your other friends, with weapons, funding and humanitarian aid, until we have achieved our long-term goal, which must be so to fortify Ukraine that no-one will ever dare to attack you again.

Here in the UK, in my country, you will see Ukrainian flags flying from church spires and in shop windows. You see Ukrainian ribbons on the lapels of people up and down the country.

There are many reasons your country has evoked such astonishing sympathy in the British people. It is a conflict that has no moral ambiguities or no grey areas.

This is about the right of Ukrainians to protect themselves against Putinís violent and murderous aggression.

It is about Ukraineís right to independence and national self-determination, against Putinís deranged imperialist revanchism.

It is about Ukrainian democracy against Putinís tyranny. It is about freedom versus oppression.

It is about right versus wrong.

It is about good versus evil.

And that is why Ukraine must win.

And when we look at the heroism of the Ukrainian people and the bravery of your leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy -- we know that Ukraine will win. And we in the UK will do everything we can to restore a free sovereign and independent Ukraine.

Thank you all very much for listening to me today.

And Slava Ukraini! [Glory to Ukraine!]4

1 Allusion to Winston Churchill's famed line in his 4 June 1940 address to the House of Commons during WWII

2  Antimetabole

3 Allusion to Winston Churchill's famed line in his 26 December 1941 address to the U.S. Congress during WWII: "Sure I am that this day -- now we are the masters of our fate; that the task which has been set us is not above our strength; that its pangs and toils are not beyond our endurance. As long as we have faith in our cause and an unconquerable will-power, salvation will not be denied us."

4 Show of rhetorical solidarity as this is the phrase often used at the of nearly every speech delivered by President Zelenskyy

Original Text Source:

Page Updated: 5/6/22

Copyright Status: © Crown Copyright, 2022. This text is licensed under the Open Government Licence 3.0.
































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