According to diplomatic sources, Ukraine’s ambassador to London has caused deep consternation in Kyiv after publicly criticizing Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s behavior in the dispute with British Defense Minister Ben Wallace.
Vadym Prystaiko, who was a key British government interlocutor during the Ukraine war, accused Mr Zelenskyy of “unhealthy sarcasm” in his reply to Mr Wallace and said Kiev should not label the UK and western allies as “Amazon” supplies consider service.
The Independent It was reported that there were “very violent” phone calls between Mr Prystaiko and the government in Kiev afterwards.
There are also reports that his remarks have been picked up by Russian media and presented in twisted terms to reveal major divisions between Ukraine and its western allies as Mr Zelenskyi’s government launches a major counter-offensive to retake occupied territories.
At the NATO summit in Vilnius, the British defense secretary said people expected Ukraine to be more grateful for the enormous help from allies.
In a mocking reply, Mr. Zelenskyi said, “How else can we show our gratitude?” We can wake up in the morning and thank the pastor. He should write to me and tell me how to thank him.”
Mr. Prystaiko replied on Sky news: “President Zelenskyy says: ‘Every morning we will wake up and call Ben Wallace to thank him’ – I don’t think this kind of sarcasm is healthy. I don’t think we have to show the Russians that there’s anything between us. We work together, Ben can call me and tell me anything he wants.”
It remains unclear what disciplinary action Mr Prystaiko would face from his government. The decision is likely to be made by Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba, who was reportedly in New York for a meeting with UN officials earlier this week.
Some senior Ukrainian officials admit that the ambassador – a veteran diplomat who had served as his country’s foreign minister in the past – sought to soothe relations with the UK, but warn that Moscow would always exploit such remarks.
Ukrainian officials are regularly targeted by Russian trolls, with Mr Prystaiko being a victim himself in the past. He gave an interview Newsweek Earlier this year, he spoke about heavy civilian casualties from Russian shelling, which a Russian website made up by making up “people died in the interests of the West” and translated them into “the Ukrainian army’s colossal losses”.
The “Amazon” controversy continues not only in Ukraine. Some allies of Mr Wallace, who is set to step down from office at the next election and retire from politics altogether, say Rishi Sunak should have done more to defend the defense secretary.
Asked about Mr Wallace’s remarks, the prime minister said that President Zelenskyy “has expressed on several occasions his gratitude for what we have done”.
He added: “People across Ukraine are fighting for their lives and freedom every day and are paying a terrible price. Therefore, I fully understand Volodymyr’s desire to do everything in his power to protect his people and end this war.”
However, Wallace was not the only Western official to raise the issue of Ukrainian gratitude at the NATO summit. The US National Security Advisor said that “the American people deserve a measure of gratitude” after being asked about US resolve.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Kuleba, in his own response to Wallace’s comments, said: “My apologies, but we are at war.
“Colleagues, ministers and foreign journalists often ask me if we get enough guns. I tell them we won’t have enough weapons while we’re on our way to victory. If we win we will say: thank you, we had enough guns. But as long as the fight goes on, we won’t have enough.”
The UK has been involved in training Ukraine’s military since the separatist wars seven years ago. Since Vladimir Putin’s invasion, Kiev has been supplied with NLAW, Brimstone and Starstreak missiles and Challenger tanks.