By Connor Steel
BOTH Gosport and Fareham MPs have paid tribute to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as he became the first foreign leader to address the House of Commons directly; in which he pledged to continue fighting against the Russian invasion and reiterated calls for further sanctions from the UK.
Parliament came together at 5pm on Tuesday evening with both Houses present in the Commons chambers as Lords sat in the public gallery; all sitting in silence and listening through headphones for translation as Zelenskyy gave his ten minute address that was also broadcast on large video screens.
Having been given permission to talk to Parliament after similar speeches to European and American leaders over recent days; Zelenskyy, live from his bunker in Ukraine, was awarded lengthy standing ovations before and after speaking as he laid bare the heartbreaking reality of conflict in his country.
Giving a timeline of events over the last thirteen days of conflict, President Zelenskyy confirmed that over fifty young children had been killed since February 24; saying “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.”
Echoing Winston Churchill’s famous “we shall fight on the beaches” speech to the same chamber in 1940, Zelenskyy further vowed: “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.”
The Ukraine leader ended his speech by appealing for more military assistance for his country and asked for further sanctions to be applied to President Putin’s regime; concluding: “We are looking for your help, for the help of Western countries. We are thankful for this help and I am grateful to you, Boris.”
“Please increase the pressure of sanctions against this country and please recognise this country as a terrorist country. Please make 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 UK.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson immediately responded to Zelensky’s speech as he told his fellow MPs that “Britain and our allies are determined to press on with supplying our Ukrainian friends with the weapons they need to defend their homeland as they deserve”.
Mr Johnson also added that the UK will “’press on with tightening the economic vice around Vladimir Putin and we will stop importing Russian oil. We will employ every method that we can – diplomatic, humanitarian and economic – until Vladimir Putin has failed in this disastrous venture and Ukraine is free once more.”
Sir Keir Starmer added his own praise to Zelenskyy’s spirit and hope despite the invasion in his own response as leader of the opposition, saying: “Invading troops march through [President Zelensky’s] streets, shells reign down on his people, and assassins seek his life.
“No-one would have blamed him for fleeing. But instead, he has stayed in Kyiv to lead the Ukrainian people and to fight. Labour stands with President Zelensky, with Ukraine, with democracy. Slava Ukraini.”
Reflecting on Zelenskyy’s speech and her part in a historic moment, Gosport MP Dame Caroline Dinenage tweeted early on Tuesday night: “Moving & humbling to be in the @HouseofCommons to hear these words from @ZelenskyyUa this afternoon. Slava Ukraini”.
Neighbouring Fareham MP and Attorney General Suella Braverman was also in reflective mood after watching the speech from the Government front benches; sharing quotes and saying on Facebook : “Historic day today in Parliament. Honoured to listen to President Zelenskyy speak directly to the House of Commons about the plight -and fight – of the Ukrainian people”.
The speech came as a Government press release confirmed the country will be phasing out Russian oil imports over the course of 2022, with a transition period to help companies and customers find alternative suppliers. It is hoped that these changes will increase the growing pressure on Russia’s economy by choking off a valuable source of income.
PICTURED BY JESSICA TAYLOR: Both Houses of Parliament rise in standing ovation for President Zelenskyy on Tuesday evening as the Ukraine leader gave a historic speech in the Commons chamber.