Ukraine ambassador to UK grilled by Kyiv after criticising Zelensky in Amazon row

For free real time breaking news alerts sent straight to your inbox sign up to our breaking news emails

Sign up to our free breaking news emails

Ukraine’s ambassador in London has caused deep consternation in Kyiv after publicly criticising Volodymyr Zelensky’s conduct in a row with British defence secretary Ben Wallace, according to diplomatic sources.

Vadym Prystaiko, who has been a key point of contact for the British government during the Ukraine war, accused Mr Zelensky of “unhealthy sarcasm” in his response to Mr Wallace saying Kyiv should not view the UK and Western allies as an “Amazon” delivery service.

The Independent has been told that there were subsequently “very strong” telephone conversations between Mr Prystaiko and the government in Kyiv.

Vadym Prystaiko has been a key point of contact for the British government during the Ukraine war


There are also fears that his remarks would be picked up by Russian media and presented, with words twisted, to show major splits between Ukraine and its Western allies at a time Mr Zelensky’s government is carrying out a major counteroffensive to reclaim occupied territory.

Speaking at the Nato summit in Vilnius, the British defence secretary had said people expected Ukraine to show more gratitude for the huge help being given by allies.

In a mocking response, Mr Zelensky said: “How else can we show our gratitude? We can wake up in the morning and thank the minister. Let him write to me and tell me how to thank him.”

Mr Prystaiko responded on Sky News: “President Zelensky saying ‘each and every morning we’ll wake up and call Ben Wallace to thank him’ – I don’t think that kind of sarcasm is healthy. I don’t think we need to show the Russians there is something between us. We’re working together, Ben can call me and tell me anything he wants to.”

It remains unclear what disciplinary measures Mr Prystaiko would face from his government. The decision is likely to be made by foreign minister Dmitry Kuleba, who was said to be in New York meeting UN officials earlier this week.

Defence secretary Ben Wallace, centre right, with Ukrainian soldiers training at an Army base in the South West earlier this year


Some senior Ukrainian officials accept that the ambassador – a veteran diplomat who had served in the past as his country’s foreign minister – was trying to soothe relations with the UK, but also point out that Moscow was always going to exploit such remarks.

Ukrainian officials are regularly targeted by Russian trolls, with Mr Prystaiko himself having been a victim in the past. He gave an interview to Newsweek earlier this year in which he talked about heavy civilian losses due to Russian shelling, which was turned by a Russian website into “colossal losses by the Ukrainian army” with the invented phrase “people were dying in the interest of the West”.

It is not just in Ukraine that the “Amazon” controversy lingers on. Some allies of Mr Wallace, who is due to step down from his post and leave politics altogether in the next election, feel that Rishi Sunak should have stood up more for the defence secretary.

Asked about Mr Wallace’s remarks, the prime minister said that President Zelensky “had expressed his gratitude for what we’ve done on a number of occasions”.

President Zelensky gave a mocking response to Ben Wallace earlier this month


He added: “People across Ukraine are also fighting for their lives and freedom every single day and they’re paying a terrible price for it so I completely understand Volodymyr’s desire to do everything he can to protect his people and to stop this war.”

Mr Wallace was not, however, the only Western official to raise the issue of Ukrainian gratitude at the Nato summit. The US’s national security advisor held that “the American people do deserve a degree of gratitude” after being questioned about US resolve.

Ukrainian foreign minister Mr Kuleba, in his own response to Wallace’s comments, said: “I apologise, but we are at war.

“Colleagues, ministers and foreign journalists often ask me if we are getting enough weapons. I tell them that as long as we are on the way to victory, we will not have enough weapons. When we win, we will say: Thank you, we had enough weapons. But as long as the struggle continues, we will not have enough”.

The UK has been involved in training the Ukrainian military since the separatist wars seven years ago. Since Vladimir Putin’s invasion, Kyiv has been supplied with NLAW, Brimstone and Starstreak missiles as well as Challenger tanks.

Recommended For You