With Boris Johnson’s departure, Ukraine loses a friend.
LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson may be a polarizing figure in Britain, where his long association with scandal forced his resignation.
His replacement — announced on Monday to be Liz Truss, the hawkish foreign secretary — will have to heal a Conservative Party divided after Mr. Johnson’s turbulent three years in office.
But if there is one place where appreciation for Mr. Johnson is undimmed, it is Ukraine, where the prime minister is seen as a genuine friend of the embattled nation since Russia’s invasion in February.
Pastries have been named after him in Kyiv, and countless memes have been created in his honor. Yulia Maleks, 36, who owns a small farm in a village near Lviv, recounted with laughter how she named a prized sheep “Johnsonuk,” using the moniker that has been adopted for Mr. Johnson across Ukraine, a play on his official Instagram handle.
Ukraine’s national railway service, a vital lifeline for evacuating civilians from the country’s east — and which also transported Mr. Johnson during one of two visits to the country since the invasion — topped their logo with a floppy blonde hairdo on social media after Mr. Johnson’s announcement in July that he would resign.
For Mr. Johnson, an admirer of Churchill, stolid support for Ukraine helped buck up his leadership as the costs of Brexit and the pandemic took their toll, in addition to the numerous scandals that ultimately eroded the prime minister’s support and forced his departure.
One of the few things that British lawmakers can seem to agree on is backing Ukrainian forces in their battle against Russia, and the British public in opinion polls has overwhelmingly supported these efforts.
The conflict gave Mr. Johnson an opportunity to remind his country, and the world, of the legacy of British resolve on the continent and the latitude for a more independent foreign policy that Britain’s departure from the European Union has provided. British support of Ukraine allowed Mr. Johnson to juxtapose Britain’s position with the more cautious approach of Berlin and Paris.
No major Western leader, perhaps, was as outspoken in supporting the country, with multiple visits to Ukraine since the start of the war, countless phone calls to President Volodymyr Zelensky, and the commitment of military and financial aid that forged a bond between the two leaders. They have repeatedly traded praise for one another.
Before Mr. Johnson’s successor was announced on Monday, the Ukrainian leader again praised the outgoing prime minister and said he was a personal friend.
“I sincerely hope that Boris’s legacy in this fight against Russian barbarism will be preserved,” Mr. Zelensky wrote in an essay for Britain’s Mail on Sunday newspaper.
Britain is expected to continue Mr. Johnson’s policy of robust support for Ukraine under Ms. Truss.
But for ordinary Ukrainians, Mr. Johnson’s departure may feel like a more personal loss.
“Thank you for your support of Ukraine and Ukrainians. We will never forget it,” one social media user wrote late Sunday. “I even named ma cat after you: Mr. Boris Johnsonuk.”