Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky received a huge round of applause after addressing the European Parliament by videolink on Tuesday as his country battles to hold back invading Russian forces.
The address by Zelensky — who has become a global icon of defiance in the face of Moscow’s aggression — comes as Kyiv pushes for fast-track membership in the bloc, a request that is sure to infuriate Russian President Vladimir Putin and one that many EU lawmakers seem ready to support.
Zelensky called on EU member states to prove their loyalty to Ukraine and its citizens, who he said were “paying the ultimate price to defend freedom.”
In his stirring address, the Ukrainian leader said that “for some people, this is their last day,” hailing the courage and dedication of his “incredible” nation.
“We’re giving away our best people. The strongest ones,” he said.
“This morning was a very tragic one for us, two cruise missiles hit Kharkiv,” he added, referring to what he earlier called an act of “undisguised terror” and a “war crime” by Russia, which reportedly led to at least 10 civilian deaths.
“Without you, Ukraine is going to be alone. We have proven our strength. We have proven that, at a minimum, we are exactly the same as you are.
“Do prove you are with us, do prove that you will not let us go,” he urged lawmakers. “Do prove that you are indeed Europeans and then life will win over death and light will win over darkness.”
Zelensky argued that the EU would benefit from accepting Ukraine as a member state.
“The European Union is going to be much stronger with us, that’s for sure. Without you, Ukraine is going to be lonesome,” he said.
He also expressed gratitude for the unprecedented measures Brussels has deployed against Russia and in support of his armed forces, including the funding of arms deliveries.
Zelensky’s speech was met with an overwhelming sense of support.
“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,” EU Parliament President Roberta Metsola said.
In stark contrast to the response Zelensky received from EU lawmakers, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was met with a cold shoulder at the United Nations.
Scores of diplomats walked out of two meetings at the UN in Geneva in which Lavrov was beamed in for a video statement.
Lavrov spoke by video to the Conference on Disarmament and the Human Rights Council, which he had planned to attend before the closure of airspace to Russian planes by several European countries prevented his travel to the Swiss city.
“What you have seen is strong support for Ukraine,” said Bonnie Jenkins, US undersecretary of state for arms control and international Security, after the walkout from the disarmament meeting.
Shortly afterward, in a conference room two floors higher, scores of diplomats — including Ukraine’s ambassador in Geneva and the foreign ministers of Canada and Denmark — poured out of the Human Rights Council chamber.
A spokesman for the council said about 100 people left the room.
Representatives of the European Union left the hall during Sergei Lavrov's speech on disarmament at the UN Conference. pic.twitter.com/LelHffS54c
— KyivPost (@KyivPost) March 1, 2022
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has suggested Russia should be stripped of its membership in the UN Human Rights Council.
And yet, under heavy sanctions that have crippled its economy, Russia on Tuesday clarified that it currently has no intention of ending the war.
Russia will continue the offensive in Ukraine until its “goals are achieved,” Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said, almost a week into Moscow’s invasion.
At a press conference aired on state television, Shoigu said Moscow aims to “demilitarize and de-Nazify” Ukraine, as well as protect Russia from a “military threat created by Western countries.”
Satellite photos showed a convoy of Russian forces north of Ukraine’s capital stretching for 40 miles. The vast convoy of armored vehicles, tanks, artillery and support vehicles was nearing Kyiv, according to satellite imagery from Maxar Technologies.