British Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed Monday evening to continue to uphold Ukraine’s sovereignty on the eve of a crucial diplomatic trip to Kyiv.
Johnson will meet President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in the Ukrainian capital Tuesday for talks on the range of strategic U.K. support for Ukraine amid mounting tension over Russia’s military build-up at the border.
As part of that support, the U.K. government announced they would commit an additional £88 million in funding aimed at reducing Ukrainian reliance on Russian energy supplies.
“It is the right of every Ukrainian to determine how they are governed. As a friend and a democratic partner, the U.K. will continue to uphold Ukraine’s sovereignty in the face of those who seek to destroy it,” Johnson said in a statement.
He added: “We urge Russia to step back and engage in dialogue to find a diplomatic resolution and avoid further bloodshed.”
The British PM was due to speak to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin earlier Monday until Johnson was forced to cancel the phone call because of the release of an inquiry into alleged lockdown-busting parties held by his government.
The prime minister’s spokesman said officials were “looking to finalize the time” for a rescheduled call, while the government confirmed Monday evening Johnson hopes to speak to Putin and other world leaders later this week.
Ahead of his visit to Ukraine, the U.K. government unveiled a new sanctions regime aimed at hitting Russian individuals and businesses supportive of Putin’s regime if Moscow went ahead with an invasion. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told the House of Commons the move amounted to the “toughest sanctions regime against Russia” the U.K. has ever had.
Truss was due to join Johnson and Zelenskiy for talks in Ukraine, but tested positive for coronavirus on the eve of the trip.