Boris Johnson is ‘desperate’ to visit Ukraine, says Oliver Dowden

The Tory party chairman sought to justify the proposed visit as in order to ‘experience what is happening there’.

21 March 2022

Boris Johnson is “desperate” to visit Ukraine to “experience what is happening there” during the devastating invasion by Russian forces, a minister has said.

Tory party chairman Oliver Dowden argued the risky visit would be important to enable the Prime Minister to “see what’s going on on the ground”.

Reports have suggested that security officials are nervous about Mr Johnson’s apparent desire to visit Kyiv for talks with President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The UN’s refugee agency says around 3.5 million people have fled Ukraine since the invasion began, with millions more forced out their homes remaining in the country.

Mr Dowden, who is a Cabinet minister without portfolio, told LBC: “Well, I think the Prime Minister is desperate to go to Ukraine and has throughout this conflict felt a real – as the British people have done – a real emotional connection with the suffering of the Ukrainian people and a need for the West to unite in standing up to this threat from Russia which has been exposed to Ukraine.”

He was asked why the Prime Minister needs to travel to the nation under siege rather than holding another one of his regular calls with Mr Zelensky.

“Well I think it’s both to see what’s going on on the ground – because it’s very different talking to somebody on the phone versus actually seeing it in practice, and by the way, I should say that no decisions have been taken in relation to this – but then secondly, it’s actually to experience what is happening there, to see what is happening to the people on the ground,” Mr Dowden said.

“I think that is very different to just speaking remotely.”

On Sunday, eight people were killed in Kyiv when a shopping centre was hit.

The latest Ministry of Defence assessment says the Russian advance on the capital remains stalled in the face of determined Ukrainian resistance.

The bulk of Moscow’s forces are believed to be still more than 15 miles from the centre.

Analysts believe the capital is still the Kremlin’s main military objective, although it is thought the Russians will try to force it into submission through encirclement rather than attempting a direct assault.

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