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Europe is 'behind a wall again,' Zelenskyy tells Bundestag

March 17, 2022

In his first address to the German parliament, Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has warned that Europe is divided "between freedom and slavery."

Picture of Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressing the German parliament in a video call
The Ukrainian president addresses the German parliament for the first time since the start of the invasionImage: Christian Spicker/IMAGO

Zelenskyy addresses German parliament

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the Bundestag in a video call for the first time on Thursday morning before the German parliament opened.

He told German lawmakers that sanctions imposed on Russia were "not enough to stop this war" after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

Zelenskyy had some harsh words for the German government over its economic interests with Russia.

"We saw how many ties your companies still have with Russia. With a state that just uses you and some other countries to finance the war," he said.

"You probably do not all notice yet ... You are like behind the wall again. Not the Berlin Wall. But in the middle of Europe. Between freedom and slavery."

Zelenskyy: 'Chancellor Scholz, please break down this wall'

'Mr. Scholz, tear down this wall'

In Zelensky's emotional address, he also appealed directly to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz saying "Dear Mr. Scholz, tear down this wall."

By using the term "wall", the president made a direct historical reference to a speech by US President Ronald Reagan standing next to the Berlin Wall in 1987, DW's Chief International Editor Richard Walker explained.

The former US president famously pleaded with Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet leader at the time, to "tear down this wall."

"This was a theme Zelenskyy had in his speech, that there is a new wall in Europe," Walker said, "suggesting that this was a wall Ukraine was on the wrong side of, that there is this in-group of NATO and there's Ukraine on the outside, vulnerable to these attacks from Russia."

Series of appeals to leaders

The virtual address follows a series of direct appeals Zelenskyy had been making to leaders to drum up support after Russia invaded the country.

After speaking to the Canadian parliament earlier this week, the Ukrainian president also addressed the United States Congress.

In his appeals, he called for tougher economic sanctions on the Kremlin and enablers of the invasion.

"I am grateful to the politicians who are still trying... Trying to break this Wall. Who choose life between Russian money and the deaths of Ukrainian children," Zelenskyy said in the German parliament. "Don’t look over your shoulder even after this war."

Zelenskyy addresses US Congress

On Wednesday, day 21 of the war, the council for the besieged city of Mariupol claimed Russia had destroyed the Drama Theatre, which Russia denied.

Germany's stance on Ukraine

In response to Russia's invasion on February 24, the German government had approved supplying weapons to Ukraine. It had so far sent 1,000 anti-tank weapons, 500 surface-to-air missiles and reportedly 2,700 Soviet-era missiles to the eastern European country.

This week Germany also announced it will buy F-35 stealth fighter jets from the US, considered the world's most modern combat aircraft. This comes after Scholz unveiled plans to up its defense budget by €100 billion last month.

The country's actions marks a major shift from its long-standing defense policy of not sending or selling weapons to war zones.

But Germany maintained it opposes NATO getting involved in the Ukraine war, stressing that de-escalation is vital.

Earlier this month, Poland had offered to send its 28 MiG fighter jets to Ukraine using the US Air Base in Ramstein, Germany on the condition NATO would back the move. But both Germany and the US refused to support the proposal.

Olaf Scholz said at the time: "We want to de-escalate the conflict, we want to see an end to this conflict."

Scholz: Germany won't send fighter jets to Ukraine

Correction: The original version of this article was published during Volodymyr Zelenskyy's speech to the Bundestga and based on the simultaneous translation. It has since been amended to reflect the official translation of the address.

fh/kb (dpa, AFP, epd)