Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began on 24 February, Boris Johnson has visited Kyiv twice to meet Volodymyr Zelensky (pictured, on right, with Johnson) – more than any other Western leader – promising new weapons and more support. Ukrainians are so passionate about Johnson that the country’s musicians have made a song about him, its bakeries have dedicated a dessert to him and its artists have painted a portrait of him, disguised as a Ukrainian cossack. They have even Ukrainianised his name: Boris Johnsoniuk.
So the news of his resignation yesterday was met with disappointment and no small amount of anxiety. Johnson is seen as one of Ukraine’s staunchest supporters, who managed to rally other Western leaders to the country’s cause. Very few Ukrainians cared about his domestic troubles, nor did they care or know about the revelations this week that he had held private meetings with Russian oligarch Alexander Lebedev.
Options are being discussed on social media – half-serious, half-joking – about where Johnson will land next. Ukrainian diplomat and former US ambassador Valeriy Chaly suggested that Johnson should become the next Nato secretary-general and that Ukraine could join the Western military alliance under his tenure. Others have bolder ideas. One meme depicts a famous volunteer who led a fund-raising campaign to buy three Bayraktar drones in a new appeal for donations. “Let’s raise money to hire Boris Johnson as Ukraine’s next prime minister,” reads the text.
Johnson might have fallen from grace in the UK but he will undoubtedly remain Ukraine’s darling for his troubles. And the question that Ukrainians are now asking is: will the UK continue to support them as staunchly as it has under his leadership?
Olga Tokariuk is Monocle’s Ukraine correspondent.