British Prime Minister Boris Johnson traveled secretly to Kyiv Saturday for a surprise meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as a “show of solidarity.”
“They will discuss the UK’s long term support to Ukraine and the PM will set out a new package of financial and military aid,” a Downing Street spokesperson said.
The news was broken in a tweet from the Ukrainian Embassy to Britain that showed the two leaders conferring in an ornately decorated room with a simple caption: “Surprise,” along with a winking emoji.
Meanwhile, the governor of the Luhansk region urged residents to flee the embattled area as Russian forces continue to bear down across the country’s east.
“They (Russia) are amassing forces for an offensive and we see the number of shelling has increased,” Gov. Serhiy Gaidai said on Saturday in televised remarks.
Gaidai said some 30 percent of residents who remained in cities and villages across the region had been urged to leave.
The Ukrainian government has set up 10 humanitarian corridors meant to guide refugees to safety in the western part of the country, Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereschuk wrote on her Telegram account.
Russian forces have stepped up attacks along strategic points in the country’s east and south as invaders have withdrawn from areas near Kiev and more central regions. The United States said tens of thousands of Russian troops would likely descend on Eastern Ukraine this week.
The call to flee Luhansk came hours after a Russian rocket attack at a railway station in the nearby city of Kramatorsk, which left at least least 52 people dead. The station was frequently crowded and served as a hub for those looking to flee westward.
US officials believe the Russians used a short range SS-21 Scarab ballistic missile to carry out the attack.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky blasted the strike as a “another war crime” and called for a robust international response.
“All world efforts will be directed to establish every minute of who did what, who gave what orders, where the missile came from, who transported it, who gave the command and how this strike was agreed,” he said late Friday. “Like the massacre in Bucha, the missile strike on Kramatorsk must be one of the charges at the tribunal, which is bound to happen.”
Russian officials have denied responsibility for the attack and instead have said it was the Ukrainians who fired on their own people to use their deaths as a propaganda tool.
“We are not buying the denial by the Russians that they weren’t responsible,” scoffed one US official.
In other developments Saturday:
- Russian Colonel Alexander Bespalov, a tank regiment commander was killed in Ukraine. He is the ninth Russian Colonel to die in fighting in the country.
- Russian naval forces are launching cruise missiles into Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region to their military invasion, British military officials say
- Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio says his country will reopen their embassy in Ukraine “immediately after Easter”
With Post Wires