‘Quintessentially Churchillian Composure’: Outgoing PM Hands Winston Churchill Award to Ukraine’s Zelensky

26/07/2022. London, United Kingdom. Boris Johnson presents-Sir Winston Churchill Leadership Award. Prime Minister Boris Johnson presents President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy with the the Sir Winston Churchill Leadership Award via video link in No9 Downing Street. Picture by Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street
Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street

Outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson has presented Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky with the Sir Winston Churchill Award for his wartime leadership.

Ukraine’s wartime President Volodymyr Zelensky was presented with the Sir Winston Churchill Award on Tuesday, with the leader being praised for his “moral and physical courage” in the face of Russia’s invasion of his country.

The award was presented to him by outgoing UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who in a speech made frequent comparisons between Zelensky and Britain’s legendary Prime Minister who saw the country through the second world war.

Describing Zelensky as a “symbol of the heroism of the Ukrainian people”, Johnson praised the Ukrainian leader — who attended the award ceremony hosted by the International Churchill Society at Downing Street via video link — for his frequent good humour and level-headedness in the face of his country’s ongoing crisis, arguing that Churchill himself would show admiration for his actions.

“President Zelenskyy has faced a test of leadership just as severe as Churchill,” Johnson argued. “He has, with quintessentially Churchillian composure, showed the world what moral and physical courage really mean.”

“His defiance, dignity and serenity under extreme pressure has moved millions,” he continued. “It has been a true honour to call him my friend and it is my immense privilege to present him with this award today.”

In accepting the award, Zelensky attributed it as an honour not just for himself, but the Ukrainian people, while swearing that people would look back on the Ukrainian crisis in the same way that people look back on the victories of the second world war.

“This will become a joint history, as prominent as it was during Churchill times. It will be quoted just like he was quoted,” Zelensky said.

“I would like to thank you, thank you for this award, for the award for the people of Ukraine,” he went on to say.

The award ceremony on Tuesday likely served as a brief reprieve for President Zelensky during another week of fighting in his own country, as well as political instability within the ranks of his allies.

In particular, the Kremlin’s decision to cut the amount of gas it sends to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline has resulted in significant chaos, with fractures on energy policy beginning to show within the European Union in regards to policy affecting the ongoing conflict.

“The gas blackmail of Europe, which only gets worse every month, is needed by a terrorist state to make the life of every European worse,” Zelensky said in regards to the decision, with a dramatic reduction in the supply of Russian gas to the continent resulting in Brussels demanding most EU member states cut their consumption by 15 per cent.

While Spain and Portugal both gave partial resistance to the measure, Viktor Orbán’s Hungary was the only state to outright oppose it, with the country’s administration going so far as to send its First Minister to Russia to agree the purchase of additional supplies.

“In order to secure Hungary’s energy supply, the government decided to purchase an additional 700 million cubic meters of natural gas on top of the quantities signed in long-term contracts,” the ruling Fidesz party announced online.

The party has since described the forced reduction mandate as “unfounded, unenforceable and [as] completely ignore[ing] the interests of the Hungarian people.”

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