‘How many Britons died?’ Former Ukraine president Poroshenko asks Boris Johnson not to compare war to Brexit

Latest critic of PM’s comments highlights children killed in Ukraine

Liam James,Adam Forrest
Wednesday 23 March 2022 10:19 GMT
‘How many Britons died?’ Ex-Ukraine President asks PM not to compare war to Brexit

Former Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko has suggested Boris Johnson was insensitive to compare Ukraine’s fight against Russia to Brexit.

The former leader asked the prime minister to “please” not suggest similarities between the war and the vote.

Mr Poroshenko asked: “How many Britons died because of Brexit? Zero.”

Speaking to ITV News, he said: “Only today we have 150 Ukrainian children who were killed by Russian soldiers and Russian artillery.

“Can I ask you how many houses were destroyed because of Brexit? We have whole cities that have been completely destroyed,” he said, adding: “With this situation, please, no comparison.”

Mr Johnson sparked controversy on Saturday when he drew a direct comparison between the war in Ukraine and Brexit in a speech to the Conservative Spring conference.

He told Tory party members in Blackpool: “It’s the instinct of the people of this country, like the people of Ukraine, to choose freedom, every time.

“When the British people voted for Brexit in such large, large numbers, I don’t believe it was because they were remotely hostile to foreigners – it’s because they wanted to be free to do things differently and for this country to be able to run itself.”

The Ukrainian ambassador to the UK Vadym Prystaiko appeared to defend Mr Johnson over the remarks made at the Tory spring conference.

“What we heard in the room, what I heard myself, is that actually we are fighting for freedom – the freedom to do what the nation wants to do,” he told Sky News on Wednesday.

However, the ambassador that the UK’s problems with the EU were incomparable to the Russian-Ukrainian war. “You believe you have problems with the European Union when you left? It’s not a problem.”

Mr Prystaiko said: “If you compare it to what we have with Russians when we left the Soviet Union, they came to kill us for this decision.”

The prime minister has refused to withdraw the incendiary claim despite criticism and insisted Ukraine was not offended.

Mr Johnson was reported to be regretting making the comparison after it was branded “insulting” to the Ukrainian people and “insane”.

But his spokesman made clear he was not having “second thoughts”, arguing it is legitimate to categorise both struggles as a “desire for freedom”.

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