Fight against Russia is like Britain’s struggle with Nazis, Zelensky tells parliament

Ukrainian president asks Boris Johnson to declare Russia ‘terrorist state’

Zelensky echoes Churchill in House of Commons: 'We will fight for our land, whatever the costs'

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky echoed Winston Churchill and compared his country’s fight against Russia to Britain’s battle against the Nazis in an historic address to parliament.

The embattled leader urged Boris Johnson to increase the pressure on Vladimir Putin’s regime by going further on sanctions, asking the prime minister to declare Russia a “terrorist state”.

Mr Zelensky also repeated his call for a no-fly zone to be established by Britain and its Nato allies, pleading for the UK to “make sure that our Ukrainian skies are safe”.

He added: “We are the country that are saving people despite having to fight one of the biggest armies in the world. We have to fight the helicopters, the rockets.”

In his 10-minute video address, Mr Zelensky told parliament: “We do not want to lose what we have, what is ours, our country Ukraine, just the same as you did not want to lose your country when the Nazis started to fight your country and you had to fight for Britain.”

Echoing Britain’s war leader, the Ukrainian leader said: “We will not give up and we will not lose. We will fight until the end, at sea, in the air. We will continue fighting for our land whatever the cost. We will fight in the forests, in the fields, on the shores, in the streets.”

Paraphrasing Shakespeare, he added: “The question for us now is to be or not to be. For 13 days this question could have been asked, but now I can give you a definitive answer. It’s a yes – to be.”

Addressing Mr Johnson personally, Mr Zelensky said: “I am grateful to you, Boris. Please increase the pressure of sanctions against this country [Russia] and please recognise this country as a terrorist country. Please make sure that our Ukrainian skies are safe.”

The speech to the Commons was greeted before and after by standing ovations from MPs, and speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle praised the “courage” of Mr Zelensky and the people of Ukraine.

The prime minister also praised the president’s courage. Mr Johnson said the speech had “moved the hearts of everybody”, adding: “Never before in all our centuries of our parliamentary democracy has the house listened to such an address.”

Although he did not address Mr Zelensky’s plea for a no-fly zone, the PM vowed to “press on with supplying our Ukrainian friends with the weapons they need to defend their homeland as they deserve, to press on with tightening the economic vice around Vladimir Putin”.

Mr Johnson added: “At this moment ordinary Ukrainians are defending their homes and their families against a brutal assault and they are, by their actions, inspiring millions by their courage and their devotion.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said all sides of the house had been “moved by the bravery, the resolve, and the leadership of President Zelensky”, adding: “He has shown his strength and we must show him, and the Ukrainian people.”

Sir Keir told the Commons: “He has reminded us that our freedom and our democracy are invaluable. He has prompted a world into action, where too often we have let Putin have his way. He has inspired the Ukrainian nation to resist and frustrated the Russian war machine.”

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said Mr Zelensky deserved an honorary knighthood, and said he “looked forward to the day” when the Ukrainian president would be able to visit the Commons in person.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford told the Commons: “President Zelensky, we salute you. We stand with the people of Ukraine on the basis of the act of aggression, on the act of war of Putin,” before adding that Ukrainians who need sanctuary must find a “welcoming hand” in the UK.

The historic address came shortly after Mr Johnson’s government announced the UK will phase out the import of Russian oil and oil products by the end of 2022 as part of a ratcheting up of sanctions on Moscow for the invasion.

The prime minister said the move to phase out Russian oil and gas is an important “first step … it’s something I think is an important thing to do.”

Mr Johnson has defended the need for visa checks on refugees fleeing to Britain from Ukraine. “I think having some sort of check, some sort of control is an important feature of the way we do things. It doesn’t mean we aren’t going to be massively, massively generous.”

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