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Leeds signs Friendship Oath with the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv

The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor Al Garthwaite and the First Deputy Mayor of Kharkiv, Oleksander Novak, signing the Friendship Oath. Credit: Leeds City Council

In an expression of the deepening friendship between Leeds and the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, Leeds City Council yesterday (Wednesday 6 December 2023) signed an official Friendship Oath between the two cities. The Friendship Oath officially marks the start of negotiations to develop a more permanent link between the two cities with a view to signing a fuller Friendship Agreement in the future.

The signing ceremony, attended by the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor Al Garthwaite, and the First Deputy Mayor of Kharkiv, Oleksander Novak, took place at the British Embassy in Prague. The Lord Mayor is visiting the Czech Republic as a guest of the Foreign Office to mark the twentieth anniversary of Leeds’s twinning with the Czech city of Brno. Speaking of the signing, the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor Al Garthwaite, said: “Having visited Ukraine and seen first-hand the devastation the war has caused, it gives me great pleasure and pride to be able to sign this Friendship Oath on behalf of the people of Leeds.

“While Kharkiv is at the forefront of the war with Russia, its beauty, culture, and positivity still shine through these dark times. I look forward to seeing the day peace comes to Ukraine and to the development of a fruitful exchange between our cities."

The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor Al Garthwaite and the First Deputy Mayor of Kharkiv, Oleksander Novak, with a commemorative plaque to mark the signing of the Friendship Oath. Credit: Leeds City Council

The Friendship Oath follows an approach made to Leeds by the city of Kharkiv in June 2022. Leeds City Council was invited to consider establishing comprehensive cooperation between the cities in spheres of common interest, as a symbolic demonstration of solidarity and support of the British towards Ukraine and its Ukrainian people.

Following a full council debate in July 2022, it was resolved that Leeds has a long tradition of building strong international partnerships in a show of friendship and has several long-standing twinning agreements and sister-city relationships. Therefore, the council supported building closer ties of friendship with Kharkiv.

The Deputy Leader of Leeds City Council, Councillor Jonathan Pryor, said: “It gives me great pride to endorse the signing of the Friendship Oath between Leeds and Kharkiv.

“As a city, we continue to condemn Russia’s invasion and help alleviate the pressures of war in any way we can. Since the start of the war in Ukraine, we have raised over £150,000 through the Together Leeds for Ukraine appeal and welcomed over 900 Ukrainian guests into our communities. Building on that, I can’t think of a better way to express our solidarity and friendship with Ukraine and its people than building a fruitful and mutually rewarding relationship with its second-largest city.

“To build on our reputation as a global city, Leeds has a comprehensive International Relations Plan published as a part of our Inclusive Growth Strategy. Building new international relationships, such as this one with Kharkiv, is key to using mutual cooperation and city diplomacy to effect change on the international stage and build future prosperity for all.”

The Mayor of Kharkiv, Ihor Terekhov, added: “With the frontlines of Russia’s war against Ukraine at our doorstep, it is more important than ever that we reach across borders and stand shoulder to shoulder against international aggression with cities such as Leeds. “Both our cities are culturally vibrant centres of trade and industry with rich histories and a track record of international friendships. With the strong support the people of Leeds continue to show Ukrainians, we are perfectly placed to work together in the longer term.

“Leeds is a city at the cutting edge of efforts to implement city diplomacy in international society. We recognise city diplomacy as vitally important to Ukraine’s future, not only in helping to stop Russia’s war but also in helping us plan for the peace that must come. “As a city, Kharkiv is extremely proud to be entering into a friendship oath with Leeds and we hope that our relationship will continue to flourish and expand in the future.”

The UK Ambassador to the Czech Republic, Matt Field, said: “I am delighted to host the signing of this important agreement, between the cities of Leeds and Kharkiv. Like our hosts here in the Czech Republic, we stand shoulder to shoulder with our Ukrainian friends, as they defend all European democracies against Russian aggression.”

UK Ambassador to Ukraine, Martin Harris, said: "The signing of the Friendship Oath between Leeds and Kharkiv shows the bonds between Ukraine and the UK at all levels, people to people and city to city.

"The people of Leeds have shown their solidarity with the people of Ukraine, from fundraising to welcoming Ukrainians into their homes. All across the UK, people are standing shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine. Together, we are stronger.”

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