London: Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday called on British MPs to recognise Russia as a terrorist country following President Vladimir Putin’s attack on his nation and called for tougher sanctions to “make sure our skies are safe”.
The 44-year-old Ukrainian leader, who made a historic address to the House of Commons via videolink, received a standing ovation by members of Parliament.
“We are looking for your help, for the help of Western counties. We are thankful for this help and I am grateful to you, Boris, said Zelenskyy, addressing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
“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. Please make sure that you do what needs to be done and what is stipulated by the greatness of your country. Glory to Ukraine and glory to the United Kingdom, he said.
In an emotional address, Zelenskyy invoked Britain’s war-time Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s words, promising to fight Russian troops in the air, sea and on the streets.
“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,” he said.
And quoting Shakespeare, he said the question for Ukraine is “to be, or not to be… it’s definitely yes, to be”.
It marked the first time a foreign leader has directly addressed MPs in the Commons after Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle had confirmed his request.
“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, said Hoyle.
“Thanks again to our incredible staff for working at pace to make this historic address possible,” he said.
The address followed Boris Johnson’s meetings with the leaders of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic to discuss the crisis in the region and the need to boost security efforts in central Europe.
Zelenskyy, a former comedian and actor turned politician, has been centre stage as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces began an armed conflict with Ukraine last month. Last week, he received a standing ovation when he spoke to the European Parliament, also via video link.
He has been in regular phone contact with Johnson, who launched a week of diplomacy to create a coalition against Russia’s actions in Ukraine. He hosted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Dutch PM Mark Rutte at Downing Street on Monday and later spoke with US President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to maintain pressure on Russia to isolate Putin diplomatically and economically.
It came as a plan to fast-track UK sanctions against allies of Vladimir Putin got through the House of Commons at rapid speed, backed by all parties on Monday. The UK government says its Economic Crime Bill will stop wealthy Russians from using the City of London for money laundering much quicker.
During the debate, condensed into a single day to try to get the measures into place as quickly as possible, UK Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “The UK must send a strong signal that it will not be a home for corruption.”
The bill, which now goes to the House of Lords and is expected to become law later this month, contains several measures to tackle oligarchs and companies associated with Putin.
On February 24, Russian forces launched military operations in Ukraine, three days after Moscow recognised Ukraine’s breakaway regions – Donetsk and Luhansk – as independent entities.
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