Boris 'desperate' to go to Kyiv as he has an 'emotional connection' with Ukrainian people

21 March 2022, 18:41 | Updated: 21 March 2022, 19:39

Oliver Dowden has said the PM is 'desperate to go to Ukraine'
Oliver Dowden has said the PM is 'desperate to go to Ukraine'. Picture: Alamy/LBC

By Megan Hinton

Oliver Dowden said the Prime Minister is "desperate" to visit war torn Ukraine to experience "what is happening on the ground" and show solidarity with the country.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Speaking on Tonight with Andrew Marr the Co-Chairman of the Conservative Party defended Boris Johnson's comparison of the conflict to Brexit, instead insisting the PM has felt a "real emotional connection" to the suffering of Ukrainian people.

When quizzed by Andrew Marr on whether reports of the PM visiting the country were true, the cabinet minister said: "Well I think the Prime Minister is desperate to go to Ukraine and has throughout this conflict a real, as British people have done, a real emotional connection with the suffering of the Ukrainian people and the need for the West to unite in standing up to this threat from Russia which has been exposed in Ukraine.

"And actually for example with the Bazookas that are currently being fired in Ukraine, people are saying god save the Queen, because they know it was the British that were leading that effort and doing so."

Asked why Mr Johnson would want to visit the country, he replied: "I think its both to see what is going on on the ground, it is very different talking to someone on the phone versus actually seeing it in practice, and by the way that no decisions have been taken in relation to this, but secondly its actually to experience what is happening there, to see what is happening on the ground which is very different to just speaking remotely."

Watch Tonight with Andrew Marr exclusively on Global Player every Monday to Thursday from 6pm to 7pm.

When asked about Mr Johnson's controversial comparison between the Ukrainian resistance and Brits voting for Brexit, Mr Dowden said: "I was in the hall listening to that speech and in fact I was sat next to the Ukrainian ambassador... I certainly didn't take the Prime Minister's speech in that way.

"Of course it's not remotely comparable, the kind of suffering that the Ukrainian people are going through, the way in which they are heroically standing up to defend the continuation of their nation.

"But I think the point the Prime Minister was making is that they are exercising a freedom, and the British people were able to exercise a freedom.

"And that is a precious thing that we have and we should be robust in defending it."

You can also listen to the podcast Tonight with Andrew Marr only on Global Player.

It comes after Boris Johnson asked Whitehall officials if he can visit the besieged Ukrainian capital Kyiv to support Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

He reportedly wants to know if it would be feasible to make a fast journey and back the president despite Russian forces continuing to try and encircle the city.

Security officials were said to be "having kittens" at the idea but Mr Johnson "wants to go" if a plan can be put together, the Daily Mail said.

Read more: PM 'confident' he did not break the law over Partygate, minister tells LBC

Read more: Andrew Marr blasts Boris for 'ludicrous and offensive' Ukraine Brexit comparison

"If you set aside the security concerns, which are considerable, the question is whether there is anything additional you could achieve by visiting in person, or whether it would just be a show of solidarity, and whether that is a sufficient goal in itself," a source told the paper.

Any such trip would follow the Prime Ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia, who last week travelled to Kyiv before returning home safely.

But it would represent a risk, with Russian forces at the gates of the capital.

Last night at least eight people were killed after a Kyiv shopping centre was destroyed by a huge blast, with rescuers still attempting to pull civilians from the wreckage.

Shelling hit homes and Retroville shopping centre in Kyiv's Podilskyi district just before 11pm on Sunday, city authorities said.

Read more: Man accused of murdering Sir David Amess 'scoped out Michael Gove's home to plan attack'

Read more: Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: I should have been freed six years ago

The force of the explosion shattered every window in a high-rise building next door, with cars pulverised in the car park."The enemy continues to attack the capital," mayor Vitali Klitschko posted on Telegram on Monday morning.

"At night, rescuers put out a fire in the Podolsk district for a long time.

"Where as a result of shelling the shopping centre burned down, 6 apartment houses were damaged. Three of them are unfit for life. Eight people died.

"He also said that a new curfew would be introduced in Kyiv from 8pm local time until 7am on March 23.

"I ask everyone to stay at home or in shelters," he added.