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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

‘We will fight to the end’: Zelenskyy invokes Churchill in a telelink address to British Parliament

Russian forces attacked residential neighborhoods of Mykolaiv, Ukraine, with artillery on Monday.

By Mark Landler

Ukraine’s embattled president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, thanked Britain for helping his country fight Russia’s brutal invasion, quoting William Shakespeare and echoing Winston Churchill as he appealed for yet more help in a dramatic video address to the British Parliament from his besieged capital, Kyiv.

“We will fight to the end, at sea, in the air,” Zelenskyy said. “We will fight in the forests, in the fields, on the streets.”

He likened Ukraine’s struggle to that of Britain in the early days of World War II, when Nazi warplanes bombed London nightly and Churchill famously vowed that his people would never surrender. Zelenskyy, the first foreign leader to address lawmakers in Britain’s House of Commons, borrowed the famous phrases that its wartime prime minister used when speaking to the same chamber in June 1940.

Clad in his now-famous military green T-shirt, with the blue and yellow Ukrainian flag behind him, Zelenskyy offered a grim day-by-day summary of the misery Russia had wrought in 13 days of war. From the cruise missile strikes that shattered the predawn peace as the invasion began Feb. 24 to the current widening panic in the city of Mariupol, which suffered intense Russian shelling Tuesday, he painted a picture of a country gripped by a widening humanitarian crisis.

“Everybody can hear that people don’t have water,” Zelenskyy said of those under siege in Mariupol. Russia’s shelling of hospitals and evacuation routes, he said, have killed scores of innocent civilians, including children.

“These are the children who could have lived,” he said, “but they took them away from us.”

Zelenskyy renewed his plea for the West to enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine, which Britain’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, and other NATO leaders have rejected because it could trigger an all-out military conflict between the West and Russia. Zelenskyy lamented what he said was the alliance’s shortfall.

Still, despite the long odds Ukraine is facing and the horrors his people are enduring, Zelenskyy said, they would survive and endure. In answer to Shakespeare’s immortal question, “to be or not to be,” he said, Ukrainians had decided “to be.”

British lawmakers gave Zelenskyy a sustained standing ovation, a rare tribute from lawmakers whose rules discourage clapping, and Johnson said, “In his righteous defense, I believe he has moved the hearts of everyone in this House.”

Britain will “employ every method that we can, diplomatic, humanitarian and economic,” Johnson said, until Russian President Vladimir Putin “has failed in this disastrous venture and Ukraine is free once more.”

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