Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has compared his country’s fight for survival to Britain’s fight against the Nazis, in an unprecedented live address to both MPs and peers in the House of Commons.
As his country continued to battle the Russian invasion, President Zelensky, who is Jewish, spoke via a video link saying: “We do not want to lose what is ours, our country, Ukraine, just the same way you once didn’t want to lose your country when Nazi’s started to fight your country”.
Echoing the sprit and words of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill he said: “We will continue fighting for our land, whatever the cost. We will fight in the forests, the fields, the shores and in the streets.”
Zelensky said his people have shown a “heroic” effort against Russian forces.
“Shelling didn’t break us,” he told the packed chamber.
During his five-minute-long address Zelensky asked Boris Johnson to “increase the pressure of sanctions” on Russia and for the UK and to recognise Russia as a terrorist state.
Zelensky said sanctions were welcome but he said it is not enough and called for there to be a no-fly zone over Ukraine.
He added that the decision by the ICC to investigate Russia for war crimes gave them hope that there will be consequences.
He says that more than 50 children have died in the war, and these are “lives of children that could have lived”.
Politicians had packed the Commons to watch the speech, which was broadcast on specially installed TV screens in the chamber shortly after 5pm on Tuesday.
MPs and Lords all stood up to give Zelensky a standing ovation before he spoke.
MPs were able to follow a live translation played to them through 500 sets of special headphones, while members of the House of Lords also watched the historic address from the public gallery.
The Ukranian ambassador to the UK Vadym Prystaiko was also in the Commons to watch the address, having received a standing ovation from MPs last week.
Following Zelensky’s speech, PM Boris Johnson said: “never before has the Commons listened to such an address.”
He added President Zelensky “is standing firm for democracy and freedom.”
Johnson also praised ordinary Ukrainians who he said are standing firm against a brutal assault.
“One of the proudest boasts now in the free world is ‘I am a Ukrainian”, the PM said.
The PM said the UK and allies are determined to “press on” to supply military weapons, impose sanctions and add pressure against Russia and its invasion of Ukraine.
He added that the UK will employ every method possible until Putin has failed in this venture and Ukraine is free “once more”.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer responded saying: “He’s reminded us that our freedom and our democracy are invaluable.
” He’s prompted the world into action, where too often we’ve let Putin have his way. He’s inspired the Ukrainian people to resist and frustrate the Russian war machine.”
Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrats leader suggested Zelensky deserved an honorary knighthood. Johnson appeared to nod in agreement.
Westminster SNP leader Ian Blackford reiterated the sentiments of PM Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer. Blackford said: “President Zelensky, we salute you”.
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle had earlier told MPs he had agreed to a request from the Ukrainian president to address the Commons and the Lords.
Hoyle said: “Every parliamentarian wants to hear directly from the president, who will be speaking to us live from Ukraine, so this is an important opportunity for the House.
“Thanks again to our incredible staff for working at pace to make this historic address possible.”
The speech was broadcast just an hour after the UK government confirmed it is to phase out Russian oil and oil imports by the end of 2022.
This transition period will give the market, businesses and supply chains more than enough time to replace Russian imports – which make up 8% of UK demand, it said.
In the US President Biden also announced a complete US ban on Russian oil, gas and coal imports.
Bidden said moves meant the “American people will deal another powerful blow” to Putin’s leadership.
“We will not be part of subsidising Putin’s war,” he added.
Zelensky, a former comedian and actor, has emerged as the hero of the Ukrainian struggle since Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces invaded the country last month.
Last week, he received a standing ovation when he spoke, again via videolink, to the European Parliament.
Zelensky has also confirmed he has spoken to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to thank him for his efforts to mediate between Moscow and Kyiv.
In an English-language tweet, Zelensky said that the two “discussed ways to end the war and violence.”
He did not mention when the call took place.
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