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Ukrainians have a special place in their hearts for Boris Johnson

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, center, and Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson walk in downtown Kyiv, Ukraine, in April . Johnson may have been shown the door in Britain, but he remains a popular figure in Ukraine, where he is admired for his support for the country's effort to repel the Russian invasion.
Ukrainian Presidential Press Office
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via AP
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, center, and Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson walk in downtown Kyiv, Ukraine, in April . Johnson may have been shown the door in Britain, but he remains a popular figure in Ukraine, where he is admired for his support for the country's effort to repel the Russian invasion.

Many Britons are happy to see Prime Minister Boris Johnson go, but he'll be sorely missed in Ukraine.

Johnson was the first Western leader to visit Kyiv during the war, taking the train to meet Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskyy. He returned for a second visit.

Ukrainians saw support from European Union leaders Emmanuel Macron of France and Germany's Olaf Scholz as tepid. But not Johnson. Britain has spent more than £2 billion on military hardware and humanitarian aid for Ukraine, second only to the U.S.

Zelenskyy hailed Johnson's support for his country, thanking him for the "cool antitank systems" — the NLAW — as well as air defense weapons, artillery, ammunition, armored vehicles and more.

In his final speech, Johnson said one reason he fought so hard to stay in power was because of his duty to Ukrainians.

Ukrainians fondly called him "Boris Johnsonyuk," transforming his Instagram account ID, Boris Johnson UK, into a Ukrainian name.

In the streets of Dnipro, Ukrainians expressed their admiration for Johnson and disappointment at his departure.

"It's very sad," said Alice Tkachenko. "Because Boris Johnson is helping Ukraine every time. And I can't believe this happened."

"I really respect him because he was not afraid of being here and he supported Ukraine a lot," said Max Ostapchuck.

No one in Ukraine seemed to understand why Johnson was ousted. No one knew anything about secret COVID parties or other transgressions.

There was an outpouring of love for Johnson across the country.

One café in Kyiv made cakes named after him with a creamy topping that resembled his blonde mop hairstyle. The cakes were called "Boris Johnsonyuk."

Cakes
Eleanor Beardsley / NPR
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NPR
One café in Kyiv made cakes named after Boris Johnson.

And the Silpo chain of grocery stores — one of the biggest in Ukraine — put a design of Johnson's iconic hairstyle above the "i" in its name.

Another Dnipro resident, Olga Ponmarenko, said it feels like Ukraine has lost a friend.

"We really loved him," she said. "He didn't make many statements and we didn't understand him, but he sent planes full of weapons. Honestly, I can't imagine Ukraine without Boris Johnson."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.