Liz Truss has accepted Volodymyr Zelensky’s invitation to visit Kyiv after he became the first foreign leader to be called by Britain’s new prime minister, followed closely by US President Joe Biden.
The comedian-turned-wartime president took to social media to boast of the chat as he called for Russia to be officially declared a ‘terrorist state’ following Vladimir Putin’s invasion.
The first call with a foreign leader has often been reserved for the US, with whom Britain enjoys a ‘special relationship’. Ousted PM Boris Johnson is believed to have been the first European leader contacted by Biden following his inauguration early last year.
But there are concerns that ongoing tensions over the Northern Ireland Protocol could strain UK-US ties over the coming months, as the Brexit rule looks set to become a defining part of Truss’ foreign policy agenda.
Mr Zelensky said on Tuesday night: ‘I became the 1st foreign leader to have a conversation with the newly elected (British) PM @trussliz. Invited her to (Ukraine). Thanked (British) people for the major defense & economic aid for (Ukraine).
‘It’s important that (Britain) is ready to further strengthen it. Attention was paid to security guarantees.
‘We discussed the participation of (Britain) in the recovery of (Ukraine). Coordinated further pressure on the RF (Russian Federation). The goal is to stop the aggression & bring the perpetrators to justice.
‘It’s important to designate the RF a terrorist state. We’ll continue active interaction in all formats.’
In a statement, No 10 said the new Prime Minister had reiterated the UK’s ‘steadfast support for Ukraine’s freedom and democracy’.
‘In her first call with a counterpart since becoming Prime Minister, she reiterated to the Ukrainian leader that he had her full backing, and Ukraine could depend on the UK’s assistance for the long term,’ the statement added.
‘President Zelensky thanked the Prime Minister for the UK’s staunch support and congratulated her on her appointment.
‘The leaders discussed the need to strengthen global security and the measures necessary to cut off the funds fuelling Putin’s war machine.
‘She praised the Ukrainians’ fight for sovereignty and self-determination and said it was essential Ukraine succeeds and Russia fails.
‘The Prime Minister said she looked forward to working with the President in the coming weeks and months and was delighted to accept an invitation to visit President Zelensky in Ukraine soon.’
Ms Truss appears to be following in the footsteps of her predecessor, who visited Kyiv on several occasions as he made providing military aid to Ukraine a lynchpin of his foreign policy agenda.
After her call with Zelensky, Ms Truss spoke with Biden on Tuesday evening, Downing Street said, with the US president congratulating her on her appointment.
‘The Prime Minister looked forward to working closely with President Biden as leaders of free democracies to tackle shared challenges, particularly the extreme economic problems unleashed by Putin’s war,’ a Downing Street spokeswoman said.
‘The Prime Minister and President Biden reflected on the enduring strength of the special relationship. They agreed that the partnership between our countries, fortified by our shared values, has been crucial for defending and advancing freedom and democracy in the world.
‘They agreed to build on those links, including by furthering our deep defence alliance through Nato and Aukus.
‘The leaders reinforced their commitment to strengthening global liberty, tackling the risks posed by autocracies and ensuring Putin fails in Ukraine.
‘The Prime Minister and president discussed a range of domestic issues and agreed on the importance of protecting the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.
‘The Prime Minister and President Biden looked forward to meeting again soon.’