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LONDON — A run-of-the-mill fleece sweater that became part of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s war wardrobe was auctioned off by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week to raise funds for Ukraine.
After bidding that started off at $62,000 — “a snip,” or cheap price, according to Johnson — the olive-green, military-style sweater reportedly fetched more than $110,000 on Thursday, British media reported. During the event, Johnson called Zelensky a “friend” and lauded him as “truly one of the most incredible leaders of modern times.” The two men met when Johnson visited Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, in April.
“No matter what Putin tries to do to Ukraine’s people, what the exhibition that we are opening tonight shows is that he will never break their spirit,” Johnson said, referencing Russian President Vladimir Putin. Johnson called the Ukraine war a “clear-cut” struggle “without any moral ambiguity” and championed Ukraine’s resistance to the invasion by neighboring Russia.
The Brave Ukraine auction was organized by the Ukrainian Embassy in London. Other items included a tour of the capital with its mayor, Vitali Klitschko. “I have had a tour of Kyiv with Mayor Klitschko. It’s a beautiful city. Well worth it. Dig deep,” Johnson exhorted bidders.
Zelensky also addressed the crowd at London’s Tate museum via video link and spoke of the close bond between Britain and Ukraine.
“Russia has brought to Ukraine and Europe such problems that we could not have imagined a few months ago,” he said, calling for financial support. He said that Ukraine needed up to $7 billion a month to cover its budget deficit and more than $600 billion for reconstruction costs.
Zelensky’s plain-spoken and social-media-savvy public addresses, as well as his dressed-down fashion choices, have added to his Everyman appeal, some analysts say. However, others such as French President Emmanuel Macron have been mocked on social media for donning hoodies and appearing to mimic Zelensky’s sartorial style.