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‘Extraordinary’ to be back in Kyiv, says UK ambassador to Ukraine

T

he UK’s ambassador to Ukraine has said it “extrordinary” to be back in Kyiv after evacuating when the Russian invasion began.

Melinda Simmons arrived in Kyiv late on Friday, following the announcement last month that Britain would be reopening its embassy in the city in a show of support for Ukraine’s fight against the Russian invasion.

Her return comes after Moscow threatened a “proportional response” against Britain for backing Ukrainian strikes behind Russian lines, hinting at possible strikes at British sites in Kyiv.

In an interview with The Observer, Ms Simmons said that while she was well aware of the risk of returning to the capital, it “absolutely feels like the right place to be”.

She told the paper: “I wasn’t sure I’d make it back to Kyiv, so coming back is an extraordinary thing,” she told the paper. It absolutely feels like the right place to be.”

“I’m not minimising (the risk). I’m not discounting it. You have to take it into account, but I’m still here.

“(There are 27 ambassadors here) so that’s quite a lot of diplomats to target.

“I am here with a heightened level of security protection and bearing in mind that potential risk, but for now I feel comfortable working under those circumstances.”

Britain moved embassy staff to the western city of Lviv shortly before Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his long-expected invasion of Ukraine in February.

But Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a press conference during a visit to India in April that staff would begin returning to Kyiv thanks to Ukraine repelling Moscow’s troops from around the city.

He said: “The extraordinary fortitude and success of President Zelensky and the Ukrainian people in resisting Russian forces in Kyiv means that I can today announce shortly… we will reopen our embassy in Ukraine’s capital city.

“I want to pay tribute to those British diplomats who remained elsewhere in the region throughout this period.

“The United Kingdom and our allies will not watch passively as Putin carries on this onslaught.”

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