Boris Johnson has come out in support of Kyiv hosting next year’s Eurovision Song Contest after European broadcasters awarded it to the UK due to safety fears stemming from the war in Ukraine.
The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) said yesterday that it would look elsewhere for a venue, sparking fury from Ukrainian officials who insisted they should still be given the chance to host the international event.
The EBU approached the BBC to host the event in Britain after the UK’s Sam Ryder finished as runner-up, but Boris Johnson has insisted that Ukraine should host, confident that peace will have returned to Ukraine by the time the competition comes round again in May .
‘I don’t think it’s right,’ Mr Johnson told reporters at RAF Brize Norton following a surprise visit to meet with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv. ‘I hope the European Broadcasting Union recognize that. This thing is a year away.
‘It’s going to be fine by the time the Eurovision Song Contest comes around, and I hope the Ukrainians get it because they deserve it.
‘The Ukrainians won it fair and square – even though we had a brilliant entry – and I do think they should be given the chance to host it.’
Speaking at RAF Brize Norton upon his return from Kyiv, Boris Johnson insisted that Ukraine should host the Eurovision Song Contest, confident that peace will have returned to the country by the time the competition comes round again in May
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to RAF personnel at RAF Brize Norton Wing. The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) said yesterday that it would look elsewhere for a venue for Eurovision, sparking fury from Ukrainian officials who insisted they should still be given the chance to host the international event
Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra (pictured) won the event in Turin, Italy, in May with their song ‘Stefania’, meaning traditionally Ukraine should host next year’s event
The UK’s Sam Ryder (pictured) finished second in this year’s edition of the Eurovision Song Contest, so broadcasting bosses awarded next year’s event to the UK in lieu of Ukraine
Boris Johnson pictured with Volodymyr Zelensky during his visit to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv yesterday
‘Of course I would love it to be in this country but the fact is they won and they deserve to have it and I believe they can have it and I believe that they should have it.’
Traditionally the winner of the international singing contest – which garnered more than 160 million viewers this year – hosts the next year’s edition, but the EBU wants break with tradition, saying that because of the ongoing war in Ukraine it is not safe for it to take place there.
The decision has outraged he eastern European country, which said it still wants to host the event, something that would normally happen after its entry Kalush Orchestra, won this year’s show in Turin in May.
Ukraine will now have hope – with Downing Street’s support – that the decision might be reversed.
Mr Johnson was speaking after making a flying visit to Kyiv, where he offered President Zelensky a major training operation he believes that could ‘change the equation’ against the Russian invasion.
The PM vowed to provide fresh military aid to Ukraine during a surprise visit to Kyiv a day after Emmanuel Macron and EU leaders visited the capital for the first time. Pictured: Boris Johnson inspects an exhibition of destroyed Russian military vehicles
Mr Johnson told the Ukrainian president that the UK is prepared to launch a major operation to train Ukrainian armed forces, training up to 120,000 troops every 120 days
Boris Johnson lights a candle during a visit to St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Cathedral, Mykhailivskyi Zolotoverkhyi
Mr Zelensky, who also appears to be a fan of Queen Elizabeth II, looked overjoyed as he leafed through his latest gift from the PM: Robert Hardman’s book Queen Of Our Times: The Life of Elizabeth II
Mr Zelensky and French president Emmanuel Macron shared an awkward embrace as EU leaders visited Ukraine yesterday
Mr Zelensky appeared pleased to see the Prime Minister as he greeted him at the presidential palace in Kyiv, contrasting with the frosty reception given to the leaders of France, Germany and Italy on their visit the day before.
‘The UK is with you and we will be with you until you ultimately prevail,’ said Mr Johnson.
The UK is proposing to lead a scheme to train and drill up to 10,000 Ukrainian troops every four months. The soldiers would be expected to spend three weeks on the training course, learning skills for the front line, as well as training on cyber-security and counter-explosives.
Downing Street said an earlier operation – launched after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea – had seen the UK train more than 22,000 Ukrainian service personnel. The PM said: ‘I have offered President Zelensky a major new military training program that could change the equation of this war.’
He also promised to continue providing military aid and training on new equipment.
Mr Johnson also reiterated how important it was that Britain continue to show it is supporting Ukraine for the long haul, warning of a risk of ‘Ukraine fatigue’ as the war drags on.
‘The Russians are grinding forward inch by inch and it is vital for us to show what we know to be true which is that Ukraine can win and will win,’ Johnson told reporters on his arrival back in Britain from a visit to Kyiv.
Some members of his Conservative Party had criticised him for making the trip instead of attending a conference in northern England.
The Prime Minister is shown the Memory wall of Ukraine’s defenders after attending a ceremony in which they paid their respects to the fallen
The Ukrainian President is pictured with Boris Johnson at the Mikhailovsky Zlatoverhky Cathedral in Kyiv
‘When Ukraine fatigue is setting in, it is very important to show that we are with them for the long haul and we are giving them the strategic resilience that they need,’ Johnson said.
Alexander Rodnyansky, an adviser to the Ukrainian president, told GB News that the British Prime Minister’s surprise visit to Ukraine this week was both ‘symbolic’ and incredibly important.
He also laid out how dependent Ukraine was becoming on British support in its war effort.
‘The Prime Minister’s visit was very important, symbolic and the President and the Ukrainian people appreciated it,’ he told Weekend Breakfast.
‘More significantly, he brought important news with him about the continued support the UK will offer. Support is vital for Ukraine at this stage. In some ways, we are even more dependent now on this than before because Russia has destroyed so many of our military facilities including those where we are able to produce ammunition.’
Mr Rodnyansky said the Ukrainian people remained worried about the future and braced for a long-term conflict.
‘People remained concerned about the future,’ he admitted. ‘They are braced for a lengthy war effort. We know the Russians are not going to give up.
‘We need to resist as long as we can and then wait for the moment when something materially changes inside of Russia. There is nothing else that will change things. The source of all this is, and remains, Putin and the Russian regime.’