Keir Starmer plans trip to Ukraine to cement ties with Kyiv | Keir Starmer
Keir Starmer is planning a trip to Ukraine in late fall to solidify his relationship with the government in Kyiv as he continues his fight against Russia.
The Labor leader approached the government of Volodymyr Zelenskiy this summer about the possibility of a visit as leader of the opposition, with Labor penning a letter seen by the Guardian. He affirms Starmer’s support for Ukraine in its fight against Russia and offers him to go to Kyiv and talk to Zelenskiy.
The proposed trip follows an earlier visit by Starmer to the Polish border and the visit of British troops to Estonia to affirm Labour’s “unwavering” commitment to NATO. The letter describes Starmer’s previous meetings with high-profile international figures.
Sources within the Ukrainian government suggest a date for Starmer’s trip has yet to be agreed, despite what was said to be a shortage in August of high-profile foreign guests. They had some reservations about not wanting to antagonize the Conservative Party after receiving strong backing from Boris Johnson and his likely successor, Liz Truss.
However, it is understood that the principle of the trip has been agreed and planning for the organization is underway, with Starmer looking likely to undertake the trip later this year.
Johnson is a hugely popular figure in Ukraine, after the UK delivered anti-tank weapons ahead of Vladimir Putin’s invasion. He traveled to Kyiv for the third time on Wednesday for Ukraine’s Independence Day, having first visited in April shortly after Russian troops abandoned their bid to seize Kyiv. the capital. He returned in June for another surprise visit.
Putin is to blame for Britons being hit with high energy bills while Ukrainians are “paying in their blood”, Johnson said during his last visit to Kyiv as prime minister, urging the international community to “keep up the cap” in his support for Ukraine. He also told Zelenskiy that the country “can and will win the war”.
Comparing Russia’s war costs, he said: “If we pay our energy bills for Vladimir Putin’s ills, the Ukrainian people pay in their blood.
Starmer would not be the first national opposition leader to visit Kyiv if the trip continues. Friedrich Merz, leader of Germany’s largest opposition party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), visited the capital in May and was received by Zelenskiy.
The previous month, Zelenskiy had disinvited German Social Democratic President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, accusing his party of being soft on the Kremlin. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited in May, along with French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.
Labor declined to comment on the proposed trip. Traveling from London to Kyiv is not easy. Starmer would probably fly to eastern Poland, cross the border and travel by train from the western city of Lviv to the capital. Johnson took the same route, using a special car reserved for VIP visitors.
Johnson has presented himself as a staunch supporter of Zelenskiy during his tenure, frequently calling out the Ukrainian leader. Downing Street’s military support for Ukraine predates the invasion, with £2.8billion in military aid now pledged. Ukrainian troops were invited to the UK for training.
Starmer supported the government’s stance on Ukraine, including providing arms and military training to the country’s troops.
In May he said: ‘We support the supply of more military equipment to Ukraine… for all those suffering in Ukraine they need to see the political parties in the UK pull together to support the ‘Ukraine.”
He pointed to Labour’s long-standing support for NATO, which is preparing to expand significantly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with Finland and Sweden set to join.