The Ukrainian leader spoke frankly about the devastation which the Russian invasion of Ukraine has inflicted on citizens since troops moved in on 24 February.
Addressing leaders such as European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and the European Union (EU) President Roberta Metsola, he said that Ukrainian citizens were “paying the ultimate price” for the freedom of their country.
The poignant speech on Tuesday (1 March) came after President Zelensky signed an official application for Ukraine to join the EU.
What did Volodymyr Zelensky say in his speech to the European Parliament?
In his highly anticipated speech to EU leaders and the European Parliament during an emergency , President Zelensky said:
“You know, over the last couple of days, I don’t know how to welcome and greet everybody because I cannot say good morning or can say good afternoon or good evening. And I cannot, and that’s true because every day for some people, this day is not good for some people this day is the last one.
“I speak today now about my citizens, citizens of Ukraine who are defending each other by paying the ultimate price they are defending freedom. I’m very happy that what I’ve seen here now and heard here now, I’m very glad to sense this mood, the uniting, unifying mood. I’m happy that we have unified today, all of you, all the countries of the European Union.
“But I did not know that this is the price they will have to pay. And this is a tragedy for us. for me, for every Ukrainian tragedy for our state. I mean, this this high price. Very high price. Thousands of people who were killed. Two revolutions, one war and five days of full scale invasion of the Russian Federation. You know, I don’t read off the paper off this sheet because the paper phase in the life of my country is ended.
“Now, we are dealing with reality. We’re dealing with killed people, real life. You know, And, you know, I believe that we today we’re giving lives for the rights, for freedom, for the desire to be equal as much as you are. We are giving away our best people, the strongest ones, the most value based ones.
“Ukrainians are incredible. And very often we love to say that we win over everyone, and I’m very happy that you are not only talking about it, but you can see that. And we indeed, we will overcome everyone. And I’m sure I’m convinced there is an expression, European choice of Ukraine that we are striving for and that’s what we’re going to and we went to.
“So I would like to hear that from you to us. We could hear that Ukrainian choice for Europe from you. I have some time off here because we have breaks between the missile strikes and bombardments. And this morning was a very tragic one for us. Two cruise missiles hit Kharkiv, the city which is located to the borders of the Russian Federation.
“There were always many Russians there, and they’re always friendly. There were warm relations there More than 20 universities are there. It’s the city that has the largest number of universities in our country. The youth is bright, smart there. The people who gathered there all the time and was gathering there all the time for celebration, all the celebrations in the largest square in our country, the Freedom Square.
“And and this is the largest square in Europe. And that’s true. This is called the Freedom Square. Can you imagine this morning two cruise missiles hit this freedom square. Dozens of dead ones. This is the price of freedom We’re fighting just for our land and for our freedom.
“Despite the fact that all large cities of our country are now blocked, nobody is going to enter and intervene with our freedom and country. And believe you me, in every square of today, no matter what it’s called. It’s going to be called as today, Freedom Square in every city of our country. Nobody is going to break us. We are strong.
“We are Ukrainians We have a desire to see our children alive. I think it’s a fair one. Yesterday, 16 children were killed. And again, and again, President Putin is going to say that is some kind of operation and we are hitting a military infrastructure ,where children, what kind of military factories do they work at? What tanks are they going with or launching cruise missiles?
“He killed 16 people just yesterday. Our people are very much motivated. Very much so. We are fighting for our rights. For our freedoms. For life. For our life. And now, we’re fighting for survival. And this is the highest of our motivation. But we are fighting also to be equal members of Europe I believe that today we are showing everybody that’s exactly what we are.
“The European Union is going to be stronger with us. That’s for sure. Without you, Ukraine is going to be lonely, lonesome. We have proven our strength. We have proven that at a minimum, we are exactly the same as you are. So do prove that you are with us. Do prove that you will not let us go. Do prove that you indeed are Europeans.
“And then life will win over death and light will win over darkness. Glory be to Ukraine.”
How was Volodymyr Zelensky’s speech received?
After he finished speaking over video link, President Zelenksy received a lengthy standing ovation.
While he was making his address the interpreter was moved to tears by his words. He could be heard struggling to keep his composure, with his voice cracking with emotion.
The European Parliament Interpreters Twitter page said it was “so proud” of those who had been working at the session on Tuesday.
The chamber was decorated in Ukrainian flags in support for the country.
EU member states are set to vote on a draft text which will label Russia as a “rogue state” and targets the strengthening of sanctions on the country.
The draft text also describes President Zelensky as “heroic” in his fight against Russian President Vladimir Putin, who the text describes as “recalling the most dreadful sentiments of 20th century dictators”.
Shortly after President Zelensky’s speech, EU President Roberta Metsola said: “The message from Europe is clear. We will stand up, we will not look away when those fighting in the street for our values stand down Putin’s war machine.”
Will Ukraine join the European Union?
On 28 February, President Zelensky told of his desire for Ukraine to join the EU, adding that he wanted his country to join the group immediately.
He said: “Our goal is to be together with all Europeans and, most importantly, to be on an equal footing. I’m sure it’s fair. I’m sure it’s possible”
Later that same day President Zelensky signed the official application for Ukraine to join the EU.
While the process for a country to join the EU can normally take years, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal insisted: “Ukraine is applying for EU membership under a special procedure.”
Their hopes will have been bolstered after European Commissioner President Ursula von der Leyen said: “They are one of us and we want them in.”
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