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Zelenskyy says Russia world's 'most anti-European force'

February 9, 2023

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is on a whirlwind tour of major European supporters, seeking more military hardware. He thanked lawmakers and national leaders for their help so far and called for greater speed.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses the European Parliament
Zelenskyy received a standing ovation ahead of his addressImage: Alain Rolland/REUTERS

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday thanked the European Union (EU) for its help in fending off Russia's invasion — and urged member states to act more speedily amid fears of new spring offensives by Moscow.

Zelenskyy voiced his thanks during a speech to the European Parliament. He later held a joint press conference with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel before conducting further bilateral meetings.

Zelenskyy's tour of European capitals has brought him to Brussels to urge EU leaders to send fighter jets and long-range weapons to beef up Kyiv's defenses against Moscow's forces.

Zelenskyy claims jets coming

Speaking to reporters after meeting EU leaders, Zelenskyy claimed Kyiv would be receiving fighter jets. "Europe will be with us until our victory. I've heard it from a number of European leaders… about the readiness to give us the necessary weapons and support, including aircraft." 

The Ukrainian president said he would be raising "the issue of fighter jets and other aircraft" in bilateral meetings throughout the day.

EU leaders have been loath to promise the jets and long-range missiles Kyiv is requesting for fear of further escalation and possible expansion of the war.

Still, speaking alongside Zelenskyy and European Commission President von der Leyen, European Council President Michel urged leaders to stay the course and continue to lend maximum support to Ukraine. 

"We know the coming weeks and months will be decisive. We have to keep our eyes open. We must continue to make the maximum level of support available," said Michel.

EU sanctions 'Putin's propagandists'

Thursday's meeting also saw the announcement of further Russia sanctions, which EU Commission President von der Leyen said would target "Putin's propagandists" for poisoning public discourse in Russia and beyond. 

The measures affect more than €10 billion ($10.78 billion) in exports according to von der Leyen, who claimed they would "further starve Russia's military machine and shake the foundations of its economy."

Zelenskyy has asked the EU to impose more sanctions still, and urged lawmakers to target Russia's tech industry, noting that such a move would hamper Moscow's ability to manufacture missiles.  

What Zelenskyy told lawmakers earlier in the day

When speaking to European lawmakers earlier Thursday, Zelenskyy opened and closed his speech with the words "Slava Ukraini'' — "Glory to Ukraine'' and thanked European lawmakers for the support offered to Ukraine so far.

He highlighted the importance of democracy for the whole of Europe and said that this was "our people's way home."

The Kremlin — which the Ukrainian president described as "the most anti-European force" in the world — wants to destroy the way of life of all 27 countries of the European Union, he said. "We will not allow that," he said.

"This is our Europe, these are our rules, this is our way of life."

"Ukraine that is winning is going to be a member of the European Union,'' Zelenskyy said to further applause. "Europe will always be, and remain Europe as long as we are together and as long as we take care of our Europe, as we take care of the European way of life,'' he said.

Zelenskyy praised and applauded Europeans who had supported his country in "this historic battle" against Russia. 

Ahead of his address, Zelenskyy appeared with his hand on his heart in front of the blue and yellow Ukrainian flag while the European Parliament played his country's national anthem. There was heavy applause and a standing ovation as he prepared to speak, introduced by the legislature's president, Roberta Metsola.

Appeal to EU leaders for speed

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy later called on leaders at an EU summit in Brussels to supply Ukraine weapons more quickly before Russia can assemble its forces for renewed attacks.

"We have to enhance the dynamics of our cooperation, we have to do it faster than the aggressor," Zelensky told counterparts at the meeting. 

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel on Thursday welcomed Ukrainian President Zelenskyy as he arrived in Brussels.

The Ukrainian leader's tour began a day earlier when he met UK leaders and lawmakers in London, and inspected Ukrainian troops training on the use of western war gear before flying on to Paris. 

French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday pledged that France would firmly stand by Ukraine as he met with Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy at the Elysee Palace in Paris.

Macron added that Russia could not be allowed to win the war and that the two leaders, along with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz who also traveled to Paris, would be discussing Kyiv's needs to sustain its war efforts.

Scholz also assured Zelenskyy of enduring allied support. The German chancellor said that since Russia's invasion began a year ago, Germany and its partners had backed Ukraine "financially, with humanitarian aid and with weapons."

js,rc/es (AFP, dpa, Reuters, AP)