Volodymyr Zelensky has been presented with the Churchill Award for “Moral Courage” by the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.
Churchill would have “cheered” at President Zelensky’s fortitude, according to Boris Johnson, who presented the prestigious medal in appreciation of President Zelensky’s leadership since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The Prime Minister presented the award, on behalf of the International Churchill Society, at an event in Number 10 Downing Street that the president of Ukraine attended via video link.
Boris Johnson praised President Zelensky for remaining in Kyiv just as Winston Churchill had remained in London during the Blitz in 1940.
The honour comes just over five months after Russian President Vladimir Putin initiated the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Since the invasion, Mr Johnson and Mr Zelensky have formed a strong friendship, and the Prime Minister has paid two visits to Kyiv since February.
At the ceremony, during an emotionally charged speech, Mr Johnson said: “It was at 4 o’clock on the morning of February 24, 2022, that you called me, Volodymyr, to say that the incredible had happened, that insanity had broken out, and Russian tanks were surging across the frontier of a sovereign independent country in Europe and cruise missiles were exploding all over Ukraine.
And in that moment of supreme crisis, you faced a test of leadership that was, in its way, as severe as Churchill’s challenge in 1940.”
As the Russians launched their lightning assault on Kyiv, you knew that you were at the top of their target list, and you knew that squads of killers were hunting for you.
And you could have left Kyiv, you could have said – and it would have been hard to contradict you – that the survival of the Ukrainian state required the survival of the president.
But of course, Volodymyr, you did none of those things: you chose to stay in Kyiv, among the Ukrainian people, just as Churchill stayed in London in 1940.”
I imagine his spirit walking with you.”
Commending President Zelensky for turning down a US evacuation offer, Mr Johnson said: “I think Churchill would have cheered – and he would probably have wept too… moved to tears at the sheer moral and physical courage you showed in those grim weeks.”
He further stated: “Your defiance, your dignity, your unfailing good humour has moved millions, and as you stand against barbarism, you’ve become a symbol of the heroism of the Ukrainian people.
“You’ve addressed so many parliaments that I’ve lost count and you brought both sides of the House of Commons to their feet, something that Churchill would surely have envied, and I can imagine his spirit walking with you, silently urging you on, encouraging you through every ordeal, jabbing the way ahead with his walking stick and perhaps marvelling at your superb indifference to physical danger, something that he himself understood.
“And like Churchill you’ve understood that you are not yourself the lion, the Ukrainian people are the lion, but you have been called upon to give the roar, the roar of freedom against tyranny, good against evil, of light against darkness.
“And you have delivered that roar magnificently and that’s why it was such a huge stroke of good fortune that you should have been in office at this time of crisis for Ukraine and the world.”
Members of the Churchill family, Laurence Geller, Chairman of the International Churchill Society, and Vadym Prystaiko, Ukrainian Ambassador to the United Kingdom, were also present at the event with Mr Johnson.
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