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Johnson pledges British support to Zelensky on his way out; missile strike hits Kharkiv

Ukrainian service members use a French self-propelled 155 mm/52-caliber Caesar howitzer to fire toward Russian positions at a front line in the eastern region of Donbas on June 15. (Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)

KYIV, Ukraine — As British Prime Minister Boris Johnson stepped down as leader of the Conservative Party on Thursday, he called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “to reiterate the United Kingdom’s steadfast support” to Ukraine in its war with Russia, according to Downing Street.

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Johnson “thanked President Zelensky for everything he’s doing to stick up for freedom,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement. The two leaders forged a strong bond in the months following Russia’s invasion, as Johnson championed weapons transfers to Ukraine and visited the country multiple times. In a statement, Zelensky said he was grateful for Johnson’s “decisive and uncompromising help.”

Meanwhile, a Russian missile strike on Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, killed at least three and injured another five, according to a top regional official. Kharkiv, just 25 miles from the Russian border, has faced a relentless barrage of rockets since the war’s first days.

Here’s what else to know

  • WNBA star Brittney Griner pleaded guilty to carrying cannabis oil on the second day of a trial in Moscow that could see her sentenced to 10 years in prison, according to reporters inside the court.
  • Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who have urged Washington to accelerate the pace of weapons deliveries to Kyiv, met with Zelensky in the Ukrainian capital Thursday.
  • Some 828 million people were affected by hunger last year, and the war in Ukraine is likely to make matters worse, the World Health Organization said in a new report.
7:49 p.m.
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National and breaking news reporter
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky opened his nightly video address with kind words for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who stepped down as leader of his Conservative Party on Thursday. Few leaders have tied themselves to Ukraine the way Johnson has in recent months. Through Johnson’s multiple visits and several phone conversations, the two leaders have forged a close bond during the war, and Britain has been a reliable supplier of weapons and financial assistance for Kyiv. Using Johnson’s first name, Zelensky said Britain will continue to support Ukraine no matter who lives at 10 Downing Street.“Both Boris and all our friends in the United Kingdom assured me of this,” he said.