Top UK minister pledges continued support for Ukraine on trip to Chicago Wednesday
“If [Russian President Vladimir] Putin thinks there will be a point in time when we get bored and just move on, he is sorely mistaken,” said James Cleverly, British Minister of State for Europe and North America.
With his boss facing increasing calls to resign for his involvement in the United Kingdom’s “Partygate” scandal, Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly made a brief stop in Chicago Wednesday on his Midwest goodwill tour.
The visit to the Ukrainian Village neighborhood was billed as a “sign of solidarity of the British government with Ukraine.”
“The message that we should send is that you have friends — you have many friends,” said Cleverly, speaking at the Ukrainian Cultural Center, 2247 W. Chicago Ave. “We want to make sure that friendship is not just theoretical but is meaningful; that’s why, from the U.K.’s point of view, we are so incredibly proud that we have played a part — with our friends — in helping Ukraine defend itself against this illegal invasion by Russia.”
Cleverly, who is the U.K. Minister of State for Europe and North America, praised the “solidarity and professionalism” of Ukrainian politics “at a time when politics can be very divisive and very difficult.”
In his brief remarks, Cleverly didn’t directly talk about the scandal that threatens to force Prime Minister Boris Johnson out of office. Johnson said Tuesday he paid a fine from police for attending a lockdown-breaching birthday party in his official residence, making him the first British leader to be sanctioned for breaking the law while in office.
The fines for Johnson, his wife, Carrie, and Treasury Chief Rishi Sunak brought a simmering crisis for the prime minister back to full boil, with opposition politicians immediately calling for his resignation.
Johnson and his Conservative government have faced growing outrage since allegations surfaced late last year that he and his staff flouted Britain’s pandemic restrictions and held office parties in 2020 and 2021 when millions in the country were barred from meeting with friends and family — or even attending funerals for their loved ones.
“The prime minister said that he made a mistake. He’s taken responsibility for that. ... Of course No. 10 is a unique place: It is both a private home but it’s also a place of work,” Cleverly said Wednesday. “The prime minister has said that he accepts responsibility. He has paid the fine. But he is absolutely determined to focus on the job in hand and that of course, in large part, is about support for the Ukrainian people in their time of need ....”
Cleverly was asked about other options for sanctioning Russia.
“We will keep exploring ways of increasing the pressure, and we’re going to keep doing that,” Cleverly said. “If [Russian President Vladimir] Putin thinks there will be a point in time when we get bored and just move on, he is sorely mistaken.”
Contributing: Associated Press