With his country standing alone against the military might of a fascist dictator, Volodymyr Zelensky was quite right to echo Winston Churchill in his historic speech to the House of Commons.
In 1940 during Britain’s ‘Darkest Hour’, amid fears of invasion by Hitler’s all-conquering army, Churchill promised: “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”
Yesterday, eight decades later, the Ukrainian president, the first foreign leader to address MPs in the chamber, told them: “We will fight to the end at the 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.”
While the UK and Nato have made clear they will not directly challenge Vladimir Putin’s invading army, Zelensky was left in no doubt by the thunderous standing ovation he received from both sides of the House about the level of support in the UK for him and his country in their struggle against tyranny.
And that message should ring out loud and clear to everyone in this country and beyond. The brutal destruction of Ukraine, the killings of civilians, the children lying dead in ruined streets require a response of some kind from us all, whether it be a simple act of solidarity, a charitable donation or something on a larger scale.
It is grotesque that major corporations like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and more are still doing business in Russia. For while the West is forced to look on as the slaughter continues – because of the risk of a nuclear Third World War that could devastate the planet – countries should be imposing every possible economic sanction they can and companies should be severing business ties.
The actions taken to date are having an effect on the Russian economy, but the more united we are in shunning Putin’s regime, the more likely it will be that ordinary Russians will be able see through its propaganda and feel the world’s horror at its actions. Those who value freedom, democracy and the sanctity of human life will be emboldened.
It’s past time to pick a side. And there is only one.