Ukrainian troops will beat their Russian counterparts and the country will “be free” from occupation, Boris Johnson has told Ukraine’s parliament – adding that it is a fight of “good versus evil”.
The UK prime minister, who has become the first world leader to address Ukrainian MPs since Russia invaded in late February, said Ukraine had proven military experts “completely wrong”.
In a recorded address, he also told the Verkhovna Rada that the “so-called irresistible force of Putin’s war machine has broken on the immoveable object of Ukrainian patriotism”.
“Ukraine will win, Ukraine will be free,” he said, while Ukrainian soldiers have “fought with the energy and courage of lions”.
“You have proved the old saying – it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”
Russian soldiers “no longer have the excuse of not knowing what they are doing”, the prime minister added, flanked by both British and Ukrainian flags.
They are “committing war crimes” and their “atrocities emerge wherever they are forced to retreat”.
It is a conflict with “no moral ambiguities or no grey areas”, the prime minister told politicians watching him from Kyiv.
It is about “freedom versus oppression”, “right versus wrong”, and “good versus evil”.
Turning to Vladimir Putin, the PM said the war had exposed the Russian leader’s “historic folly” – the “gigantic error that only an autocrat can make”.
“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,” Mr Johnson said.
A “free media, the rule of law, free elections and robust parliaments, such as your own” are the “best protections against the perils of arbitrary power”, he went on.
What Vladimir Putin has done is an “advertisement for democracy”, the PM said, and the “carcasses of Russian armour littering your fields and streets” are “monuments to his folly”.
The conflict is Ukraine’s “finest hour”, the prime minister told the gathering in Kyiv.
“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,” he said.
But he also noted the “terrible price” the Ukrainian people have paid.
“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.”
The PM also said other countries had been “too slow to grasp what was really happening” and “failed to impose the sanctions then that we should have put on Vladimir Putin”.
A further £300m of UK military aid has been announced as Ukraine continues to fight back against the Russian invasion.
It includes a counter battery radar system, heavy-lift drones, GPS jamming equipment and thousands of night vision devices.
In the coming weeks the UK will send Brimstone anti-ship missiles, Stormer anti-aircraft systems and armoured vehicles to evacuate civilians, Mr Johnson vowed.
The UK will carry on supplying Ukraine, Mr Johnson said, until no one ever “dares” to attack it again.
In the bombarded city of Mariupol, it is hoped more people can be evacuated from the Azovstal steelworks on Tuesday.
More than 100, including elderly women and mothers with small children, got out of the rubble-strewn site over the weekend.
Around 200 remain inside, however. Aid workers have prepared hot food, wheelchairs and toys for those able to make their way to safety.