Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, invoking the wartime defiance of British prime minister Winston Churchill, vowed Tuesday to “fight to the end” in a historic virtual speech to UK lawmakers.
“We will not give up and we will not lose,” he said, recounting a day-by-day account of Russia’s invasion that dwelt on the costs in lives of civilians including Ukrainian children.
“We will fight to the end, at sea, in the air. We will continue fighting for our land, whatever the cost, in the forests, in the fields, on the shores, in the streets,” he said, to a standing ovation at the end.
The speech was a conscious echo of Churchill’s landmark address to the House of Commons in June 1940, after British forces were forced to retreat from France in the face of a Nazi German onslaught.
Zelensky, wearing a military-green T-shirt and sitting next to Ukraine’s blue-and-yellow flag, also invoked William Shakespeare as he delivered the chamber’s first-ever virtual speech by a foreign leader.
“The question for us now is, to be or not to be,” he said. “Now I can give you a definitive answer: it is yes, to be.”
Zelensky, while thanking Western countries for their retaliation against Russia, also noted that NATO had failed to accede to his demands to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine.
“But please increase the pressure of sanctions against this country. And please recognise this country as a terrorist state. And please make sure that our skies are safe,” he said.
“Please make sure that you do what needs to be done and what is stipulated by the greatness of your country (Britain).”
In response, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said “never before in all our centuries of parliamentary democracy has the House listened to such an address”.
“He has moved the hearts of everybody in this House,” he said, vowing that the West was determined to press on with arms supplies and further sanctions, after the US and UK announced a ban on Russian oil.
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