Ukraine is fighting for the “survival of a people” like Britain in the Second World War, the Archbishop of Canterbury has warned, as he called for renewed support from people in western countries.
Speaking in Ukraine, where he has been meeting churches, politicians, charities and ordinary Ukranians this week, Archbishop Justin Welby drew from the legacy of Winston Churchill and warned of risks for wider security if Ukraine does not succeed.
During the visit – his second since the Russian full-scale invasion in 2022 – he has been learning about the likely long-term psychological effects of the trauma of war, visiting a rehabilitation centre for combatants and meeting some of Ukraine’s first military chaplains.
He has also been hearing first-hand about the work of churches in ministering to the needs of the people of Ukraine, and of fears for the future amid an uncertain global environment.
During a meeting with the Archbishop in Kyiv, Iryna Vereshchuk, Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine and Minister for Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories, spoke with emotion about the situation facing the country.
Archbishop Justin told her of how he had spent time talking with his mother, Lady Jane Williams – who was Winston Churchill’s personal secretary – before she died last summer, discussing her life and history.
He said: “Churchill would have recognised what you just said and I think we’re all deeply moved by your emotion and the power of your words.
“He had the words, as your president [Volodymyr Zelenskyy] did in London last February when I heard him speak.
“An old man standing next to me … who remembered the great speakers in England said it is 60 years since I heard a speech so powerful in this building. I agreed.
“What you have reminded us of is that this is not a technocratic problem. It is the survival of a people – of families, mothers, fathers, children, brothers, sisters, friends.
“We will remember that and share that.”
Speaking about the challenges ahead, he said: “The first thing is going to be winning the war and we all of know the cruelty of war, the bitterness. I too come from a family who served in the military.
“And we are so grieved by the suffering of the people in Ukraine, especially those in the temporarily occupied territories, it is heartbreaking.
“I would say that in the UK nobody needs convincing that Ukraine must be supported. That is agreed - it is [perhaps] the only thing which is agreed across politics. What needs saying is we must make much more effort to support you.”
He added: “True victory must include a secure, just and lasting peace, freely agreed by Ukraine and Russia. The long-term vision must be for stability and security, justice, healing, and reconciliation. That also was Churchill’s vision after World War II. It is in that sense of winning the peace that we say the first step must be to win the war."
Speaking earlier at a meeting of the All-Ukraine Council of Churches and Religious Organisation, he spoke about the role of churches in Britain and elsewhere in the Second World War.
“I have listened to your insights from all quarters. I could have listened a lot longer. I have learnt a great deal and I will continue to be in touch."