FORMER PM Boris Johnson has made a major blunder as he praised despot Vladimir Putin instead of his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky for his “inspirational leadership”.
The gaffe came during Mr Johnson’s first big participation in UK politics as a backbench MP after he was forced out of office in July.
During a Commons debate on the situation in Ukraine last night, Mr Johnson initially reflected upon the reasons for Ukraine’s successful counter-offensive against the Russian invaders.
He said: “Thanks to the heroism of the Ukrainian armed forces, thanks in part to the weapons that we are proud to be offering, I congratulate my right honourable friend [James Heappey] on his description of the work of the UK armed forces, the weapons that we’re sending, the huge list…
“Thanks also, of course, to the inspirational leadership of Vladimir Putin…”
At this point, coughs and a few chuckles can be heard in the Commons, before Mr Johnson realises his awkard error.
“Thanks also of course to the inspirational leadership of Vladimir Putin… of Volodymyr Zelensly, forgive me.”
“The inspirational leadership of Volodymyr Zelensky, forgive me, the Russian forces have, in recent days been expelled from large parts of the north-east of the country around Kharkiv.”
“And they are under increasing pressure in Kherson in the south, and I have no doubt whatever that the Ukrainians will win.”
During his speech as MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, Mr Johnson suggested the UK be prepared to increase its “military assistance” to Kyiv, as well as “more economic support”.
He added: “If Putin is going to double down on his aggression, then we must double down in our defence of the Ukrainians, and we must be prepared to give more military assistance and more economic support, and I welcome warmly the announcements from this Government this week.”
The debate comes after anger mounted in Russia following Putin’s mobilisation of civilians to fight in Ukraine.
Flights out of the country have sold out for eye-watering prices in the wake of the announcement as Russians insist they do not want to be sent into Putin’s “meatgrinder”.
Putin ordered the mobilisation – calling up 300,000 reservists – in a speech on TV in which he also made a thinly veiled threat to nuke the West.
Russia has a reserve of around two million people, most of whom have served in the military in recent years but doubts remain about their fitness and motivation – particularly given the apparent Russian panic inside of Ukraine.
Demoralised Russian troops have withdrawn in “panic” from their positions along the River Oskil this week, according to newspaper The Kyiv Independent.
Those fleeing have left behind hundreds of vehicles and machinery, and potentially thousands of casualties.