Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has vowed to “fight to the end” as he appealed for more help from the UK in a historic address to the House of Commons.
Echoing Winston Churchill’s ‘we shall fight on the beaches’ speech to the same chamber in 1940, he vowed: “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.”
And quoting Shakespeare, he said the question for Ukraine is “to be, or not to be.. it’s definitely yes, to be”.
It is the first time a foreign leader has directly addressed MPs in the Commons.
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He appealed for more military assistance and further sanctions, saying: “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.
“Please increase the pressure of sanctions against this country (Russia) and please recognise this country as a terrorist country.
“Please make sure 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.”
Mr Zelenskyy gave an emotional timeline of events of the Russian invasion, telling MPs what has happened on each of the 13 days of war, so far.
He said more than 50 children have been killed, adding: “These are the children that could have lived but these people have taken them away from us.
“Ukraine was not looking to have this war. Ukraine has not been looking to become big but they have become big over the days of this war.
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, rockets.”
The president, appearing live by video link, received a lengthy standing ovation from MPs both before his speech and after.
Directly afterwards, the prime minister promised to employ “every method – diplomatic, humanitarian and economic – until Vladimir Putin has failed in this disastrous venture and Ukraine is free once more”.
Mr Johnson added: “Never before, in all our centuries of parliamentary democracy, has the House listened to such an address.”
MPs close to tears as Volodymyr Zelenskyy told of Ukraine’s hurt and anguish
The grim faces of MPs across the chamber told the story of President Zelenskyy’s address to the House of Commons.
You didn’t need access to the translation to understand what the Ukrainian leader was saying. From his bunker in Kyiv, President Zelenskyy laid bare the reality of the war his people face.
The starving children, those who have lost their lives, the troops forced back by unarmed civilians determined to save their homeland and the disappointment that NATO leaders have, in his eyes, failed to rise to the scale of the challenge.
As he spoke, MPs listened on, their faces flitting between solidarity, defiance and anguish.
It was not a triumphant address, it was – as life must surely be for those living in Ukraine right now – determined, tired, frustrated but undefeated.
Mr Zelenskyy spoke of Shakespeare, he nodded to Churchill – he sought to find references British MPs could understand but he needn’t have bothered. Dead children need no translation.
MPs listening in the Commons were silent. Some looked close to tears. The defence secretary, Ben Wallace, rubbed his face wearily as the president’s words sunk in.
They must all feel the weight of their refusal to act on his calls for a no-fly zone.
Such brave defiance is hard to follow, but the prime minister and the leaders of every other party vowed to do all they can to protect Ukrainians. But they know in reality this can’t be true, they have red lines which can’t be crossed.
There was a standing ovation before President Zelenskyy began his address and afterwards. He raised his arm in defiance in response.
But the mood in the Commons reflected his; written all over the faces of everyone listening – from ambassadors to the prime minister, doorkeepers to reporters – was the grim mask of inevitability.
There will be no quick end to this conflict and many more will die, the president risked his own life just to make such a speech. The stakes are so high and the reality so desperately sad.
Mr Zelenskyy’s speech came as new “humanitarian corridors” were opened on Tuesday, with people leaving the heavily hit northern city of Sumy and the town of Irpin, near Kyiv, Ukrainian officials said.
On Monday, the president called the corridors “completely immoral” as the Kremlin had set them up so most of them led to Russia or close ally Belarus.
But that appears to have changed, with video posted by Ukrainian officials on Tuesday showing buses packed with people moving along a snowy road from Sumy and others leaving the besieged southern port of Mariupol.
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who approved Mr Zelenskyy’s request to talk to MPs, called it a “historic address”.
Mr Zelenskyy has been addressing politicians around the world, privately and publicly, since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly a fortnight ago.
He made a “desperate plea” to US Congress members over the weekend for further military aid not currently being supplied by the West, including anti-aircraft missiles, planes and drones.
Mr Zelenskyy is also calling for a no-fly zone to be imposed over his country – which the West has said it is not in favour of as it could bring NATO into direct military contact with Moscow.
Last week, he gave an emotional speech to MEPs at the European Parliament as he called on Europe to prove its support for Ukraine by allowing it to join the EU.