Britain did not strong-arm Ukraine into abandoning peace with Russia early on in the conflict, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said. His remarks came in reaction to the recent revelations about his April 2022 trip to Kiev by a top Ukrainian lawmaker, who has now also tried to walk back his story.
Johnson’s role in the scuttling of Istanbul peace talks between Moscow and Kiev was reported as early as May 2022 by the outlet Ukrainska Pravda. In late November, the leader of President Vladimir Zelensky’s party bloc in the Ukrainian parliament, David Arakhamia, spoke about the visit as well, prompting reactions from Russia.
The former British PM has finally addressed the matter himself, calling it “nothing but total nonsense and Russian propaganda” in an interview with The Times on Wednesday.
Johnson said that he had merely told Zelensky that the UK would support Ukraine “a thousand percent” and voiced concerns about the nature of any potential agreement with Russia.
“I was a bit worried at that stage. I could not see for the life of me what the deal could be, and I thought that any deal with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin was going to be pretty sordid,” Johnson told The Wall Street Journal, per The Times.
Arakhamia, Kiev’s chief negotiator at the Turkish-mediated talks, told the Ukrainian outlet 1+1 on November 24 that Russia was ready to end the conflict had Ukraine declared neutrality and pledged not to join NATO. At this point, Arakhamia said, Johnson “came to Kiev and said that we [the West] would not sign anything with [the Russians] at all. And [said] ‘Let’s just continue fighting.’”
Speaking with The Times, Arakhamia has now claimed that his words had been “distorted” by Russian media, that Johnson’s “just fight” comment was in the context of jointly resisting Russia, and that no Western official has ever had the power to order Zelensky.
“Neither then nor now do any of our [Western] partners give Ukraine instructions on how to build its defenses or what political decisions to take. This is the sovereign right of the Ukrainian leadership,” The Times quoted Arakhamia as saying. “No peace proposals or peace agreement were possible in February or March 2022.”
Within months of the conflict with Russia escalating, Kiev became entirely dependent on the West for weapons, ammunition, and supplies, as well as funding for government salaries and pensions. American and British generals also helped plan and wargame Ukraine’s 2023 summer counteroffensive, which ended in disaster.
Johnson himself was ousted as PM in June 2022 and eventually forced to resign from his parliamentary seat under the cloud of scandal related to Covid-19 lockdowns. Last October, he was hired onto the International Leadership Council of the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), an American think tank known to be bankrolled by the US government, NATO, and Western military contractors.