Zelensky thanks Boris Johnson before receiving standing ovation
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On day 13 of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, President Zelensky made a speech via video link in the House of Commons that put the “political differences” of the Conservative and Labour parties aside – with Mr Johnson praising the war-torn country for “inspiring millions with their courage and their devotion” as they defend themselves against the Kremlin’s assaults.
Zelensky’s emotional address, in which he likened Ukraine’s fight for survival to Britain’s fight against the Nazis, sparked an emotional reaction across Parliament.
Mr Johnson said: “Mr Speaker, may I say that never before, in all our centuries of parliamentary democracy, has the house listened to such an address.
“In a great European capital, now within range of Russian guns, President Volodymyr Zelensky is standing firm for democracy and freedom, in his righteous defiance, I believe he has moved the hearts of everybody in this house.
“At this moment, ordinary Ukrainians are defending their homes and their families against a brutal assault, and they are by their actions inspiring millions with their courage and their devotion.
“And I think today, one of the proudest boasts in the free world is: Ya Ukrainets’– ‘I am a Ukrainian’.
“So this is a moment for us to put our political differences aside, Mr Speaker.”
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As the widely-praised Ukrainian leader told MPs Ukraine would fight against Russian forces to the end — “in the forests, in the fields, on the shores, in the streets” — he once again called for NATO to enforce a no-fly zone over his country, saying: “Please make sure that our Ukrainian skies are safe.”
While the Alliance, including the UK, has made its stance on the request clear in several instances, Mr Zelensky’s continuous appeals to Western nations has resulted in ramped up efforts at No10 to support Kyiv in Putin’s war.
The Prime Minister said: “I know I speak for the House when I say that Britain and our allies are determined to press on, to press on with supplying our Ukrainian friends with the weapons they need to defend their homeland as they deserve.”
He vowed the UK “we will stop importing Russian oil”, saying: “Mr Speaker, the business secretary will update the House on that tomorrow.”
Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng confirmed the move shortly before the video conference as the Government’s business department claimed the UK is phasing out Russian oil imports by 2023 and exploring ending gas imports, too.
A news release read: “In a competitive global market for oil and petroleum products, demand can be met by alternative suppliers.
“We will work closely with international partners to ensure alternative supplies of fuel products.
“Russian imports account for 8% of total UK oil demand, but the UK is also a significant producer of both crude oil and petroleum products, in addition to imports from a diverse range of reliable suppliers beyond Russia including the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, and USA.”
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Presented as “another economic blow to the Putin regime” by Mr Johnson, the ban was equalled by the US while the European Union presented a plan to phase out gas imports only.
The sanctions are expected to highly impact the Russian economy, with experts at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit predicting the UK oil ban alone could cost the country more than £5billion in 2022.
Mr Zelensky, sitting next to a Ukrainian flag and addressing the Prime Minister by his name, said: “We are thankful for this help and I am grateful to you, Boris.”
Making references to the UK’s history that certainly moved those sitting and listening in the Commons, he claimed Ukrainians did not want to lose their country “just the same way you once didn’t want to lose your country when the Nazis started to fight your country and you had to fight for Britain”.
Dressed in a military-coloured t-shirt and looking closely into the camera, he added: “Thirteen days of this struggle … at four o’clock in the morning we were attacked by cruise missiles.”
But Mr Zelensky also spoke of Ukrainian servicemen’s strength, saying the losses of the Russian army exceeded 10,000 on day 12 of their invasion.
Among those killed, he pointed out, was a general – and that, he underlined, gave his country hope.
He said: “We will not give up, and we will not lose.”
And Mr Johnson, in line with the West’s commitment to keeping on pushing for narrowly-calculated measures against dictator Putin’s government, claimed: “We will employ every method — diplomatic, humanitarian and economic, Mr Speaker — until Vladimir Putin has failed in this disastrous venture and Ukraine is free once more.”
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