It would be ‘absurd’ for Boris Johnson to visit Ukraine during Russia’s invasion of the country, senior government official says The Independent.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) official said the Prime Minister’s time ‘would be better spent on the dysfunctional Home Office’ than Britain’s response to the crisis refugees.
Mr Johnson is “desperate” to travel to Ukraine to “experience what is happening there”, confirmed Conservative party chairman Oliver Dowden.
Inquiries had been made to the FCDO regarding the possibility of Mr Johnson traveling to Ukraine in person, The Independent understand.
But the department official warned that there were “enormous risks associated with such an operation for British officials, special forces and Ukrainian security concerns”.
They added that an in-person visit by the prime minister was not a top priority for the Ukrainian government.
Two main demands from Ukrainian counterparts remain – to send more arms and aid and to facilitate the flow of refugees to the UK, the official said.
Labor and Tory MPs have attacked the Home Office’s slow response to allowing Ukrainian refugees to come to Britain, and campaigners have condemned Home Secretary Priti Patel’s insistence on demands for Visa.
The FCDO official also noted that US officials were careful to note that President Joe Biden would not be visiting Ukraine during his trip to neighboring Poland. It was important not to further inflame tensions with Russia.
A visit by a British or American prime minister would require logistical support which could, if they encountered Russian forces, risk triggering a direct engagement between a NATO member and Russia, the official said.
It is the same problem that NATO leaders say is preventing them from protecting Ukrainian skies from Russian attacks, as this could lead to a vast escalation of the conflict.
The Conservative Party chairman defended Mr Johnson’s desire to visit Ukraine, arguing the risky visit would be important to allow the Prime Minister “to see what is happening, on the ground”.
“It’s really about finding out what’s going on there, seeing what’s happening to the people on the ground,” Mr Dowden told LBC – suggesting he wanted to meet President Volodymyr Zelensky in person.
“It’s very different talking to someone on the phone compared to seeing them in practice,” the conservative president said.
The cabinet minister also clarified that no decision had yet been made, following reports that British security officials “have kittens” about the visit requested by the Prime Minister.
A senior Ukrainian security official said The Independent that he had heard that Mr Johnson had expressed an interest in showing solidarity with Ukraine by traveling to meet President Zelensky.
The official, who has visited London and is known to Western officials, stressed that no official steps have been made regarding a visit to the Prime Minister by British officials.
But he pointed out that Ihor Zhovka, the Ukrainian president’s adviser on international relations, had invited President Biden to visit Kyiv.
He also pointed out that the prime ministers of Poland, Slovenia and the Czech Republic had met Mr Zelensky in Kyiv after traveling by train from Poland.
Britain’s position in Ukraine is extremely high at present after arms deliveries to the country. Mr Johnson received a warm welcome during a visit to kyiv in January as war approached.
EU leaders will meet in Brussels on Thursday with US President Joe Biden, but Mr Johnson is not expected to join them.