King Charles has revealed that he is determined to visit Ukraine “before I get too old”.
In a show of support for the country which has just marked one year since the Russian invasion, he said: “I must go again before I get too old. I would like the chance to see Ukraine again.”
The monarch was speaking as he officially opened the new European Bank for Reconstruction and Development Headquarters at London’s Canary Wharf.
The EBRD was established in 1991 at the end of the Cold War to build open market economies and promote private enterprise in the former communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe.
Their work now focuses on the green economy and digitalisation, investing more than £160 billion in projects in 36 economises across three countries.
After receiving a rousing welcome from hundreds of cheering staff, the king toured the building and was introduced to a charitable project being run by staff called ‘Kids and Art for Ukraine’.
He was given a landscape picture painted by Sofia Franchuk, a 16-year old living in the historic town of Tarashcha, around 120 kilometres of Kyiv, of the idyllic rural scene she sees from her window.
She has continued to attend art school and paint despite blackouts and lack of heating and based her picture on the ‘warm summer and peace’ that she hopes will come to Ukraine soon.
The king was genuinely touched by the gesture and asked to be given her address so he could personally write to her.
The project, which is supported by the ERD’s Community Initiative Programme, aims to help children affected by the war and offer psychological and therapeutic relief, raising more than £22,000 so far by selling the children’s paintings, with the bank matching donations.
Co-founder Olga Evans, a Ukrainian-born portfolio manager EBRD, said: “It was such an honour. The King seemed so pleased. He said he wanted to visit Ukraine before he got too old. We hope there will be peace soon so that he can. He wants to come to our country.”
The King toured some of the bank’s new offices, a 26-storey skyscraper which is one of the most environmentally advanced buildings in the UK and uses 100 per cent green power.
And he sat down for a meeting with many of the bank’s Ukrainian and Turkish staff who spoke to him emotionally about their experiences of conflict and the recent earthquake.
Jurgen Rigterink, first vice president on the bank, told the king that the bank was the leading international financial institution responding to both tragedies.
Before he left the king signed a visitors’ book - as well as viewing his signature from when he opened their previous premises 30 years ago - and unveiled a plaque.
As well as shaking hands with dozens more staff, he also undertook an impromptu walkabout in the street after several hundred members of the public stopped to catch a glimpse of him.