President Volodymyr Zelensky has sacked his ambassador to London after a row over whether Ukraine should be more “grateful” for military help from the UK.
Vadym Prystaiko was dismissed after he appeared to support UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace who complained the West was being treated like the “Amazon” of weapons supply.
The ambassador accused his own president of “unhealthy sarcasm” after Zelensky responded by mocking Wallace at a Nato summit last week.
Zelensky was incensed by Wallace’s remarks and responded: “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, a former Ukrainian foreign minister, told Sky News: “President Zelensky’s term, when he said each and every morning he’ll wake up and call Ben Wallace to thank him, I don’t think that kind of sarcasm is healthy.
READ MORE: Ukraine’s ambassador to UK ‘sacked by Zelensky’ after diplomatic spat
“We don’t have to show the Russians there is something between us. They have to know we are working together. If something happens, Ben can call me and tell me everything he wants.”
Kyiv reacted angrily to his remarks believing Mr Prystaiko had handed the Russians a propaganda coup revealing strains in their relationship with the West.
President Zelensky was understood to have spoken to the ambassador in a telephone call on Thursday night in which he sacked him.
A presidential order, signed by Mr Zelensky and published online on Friday, confirmed the dismissal.
Mr Prystaiko was also removed as Ukraine’s representative to the International Maritime Organization.
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It is extraordinary for a senior diplomat to criticise their national leader in public.
The diplomat, who is well-liked and respected at Westminster, is thought to have been trying to protect his country’s relationship with the UK when he made his remarks.
Mr Wallace, who is standing down as Defence Secretary, was one of Ukraine’s strongest supporters and led donations of NLAW, Brimstone and Storm Shadow missiles, GMLRS and Starstreak rocket launchers and Challenger 2 tanks.
His remarks echoed US concerns at two-day summit in Vilnius when he said: “Whether we like it or not, people want to see gratitude”.
He added: “You know, we’re not Amazon. I told them that last year, when I drove 11 hours to Kyiv to be given a list.”
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Mr Prystaiko has been ambassador since June 2020 and was previously a foreign minister. In private he has always been skilled at conveying messages, often saying the biggest barrier to securing military aid was the West’s fear of Russian escalation.
He has also admitted publicly that the Ukrainian counteroffensive has not been as successful as some hoped.
He said: “We are trying to understand where their defences are weakest. It is not as spectacular as everyone, including the Ukrainians, wanted to see it.”
The ambassador was last seen on Wimbledon’s Centre Court last week when he and his wife Inna watched Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina.
They left the Royal Box before Belarussian player Aryna Sabalenka came on, in protest at Belarus’ support for Putin’s invasion.
Mr Prystaiko’s dismissal, alongside the expected departure of Wallace as defence secretary, means the relationship between the UK and Ukraine is in a delicate condition atr a crucial point in the war.
Boris Johnson has paid tribute to Vadym Prystaiko, after he was sacked as Ukraine’s ambassador to the UK.
The former prime minister tweeted a photo of the pair together, adding: “Sad to say goodbye to Vadym Prystaiko who has been a great Ukrainian ambassador and friend to this country.
“I hope he will emerge soon in another incarnation!”
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