KEIR Starmer has visited Kyiv to pledge the UK's relationship with Ukraine would "remain the same" if he becomes prime minister. 

The Labour leader also said there “has to be justice” for war crimes against the Ukrainian people as he visited areas that Russian president Vladimir Putin’s troops previously turned into conflict zones.

Starmer is in the war-torn country in eastern Europe, where he is expected to meet Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky in what appears to also be an effort to show he can hold his own on the international stage.

The National:

It follows a historic visit by Zelensky to Britain last week during which he implored Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to hand over fighter jets for his air force as Ukraine prepares to counter an expected Russian spring offensive.

During his visit on Thursday, Starmer spoke to reporters in Irpin, a Kyiv suburb where heavy fighting took place in the first months of Moscow’s invasion — a bloody conflict which is only days away from its first anniversary.

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With Labour well in front of the Conservatives in most UK opinion polls, Starmer could be handed the keys of 10 Downing Street as Britain’s new leader after the next General Election.

He stressed that his party was committed to Zelensky and Ukraine's cause.

“Should there be an election next year and a change of government, the position on Ukraine will remain the same,” he vowed.

“It’s very important for me to be here in Ukraine with the people of Ukraine, making it clear that support for Ukraine in the United Kingdom is united.

“Throughout the conflict, the Labour party has stood united with the Government in the United Kingdom to show our support for Ukraine”

Before meeting Zelensky, the opposition leader will visit Bucha, an area where war crimes were allegedly carried out by occupying Russian troops.

Starmer said he wanted to show support for Ukraine’s calls for justice and reparations for Russian actions during the war.

He added: “It’s incredible to see the evidence of atrocities that I’ve seen this morning.

“Photographs of civilians in the outskirts of Kyiv blindfolded, with their arms tied behind their back.

“There has to be justice for this. There has to be justice in The Hague and there has to be proper reparation in the rebuilding of Ukraine.”

Meetings with Zelensky were a staple of Boris Johnson's time in office - often coinciding with scandals involving the former PM and his government. 

Johnson was singled out for praise in Zelensky's speech when he spoke in London earlier in the month.