Ukraine-Russia: Sir Winston Churchill invoked as President Volodymyr Zelensky reduces MPs to tears

It was a speech interlaced with British references, one that invoked Sir Winston Churchill and reduced MPs to tears.

Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky delivered a stirring video address on a historic day in the House of Commons. His words paid homage to Britain’s iconic war time leader, and cited both World War Two and William Shakespeare.

In scenes that will be replayed for generations, Mr Zelensky’s appearance brought the chamber to a standing ovation, not once, but twice.

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Speaking from an unknown location in Kyiv due to threats against his life, the leader made a direct appeal to Britain.

MPs give a standing ovation after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed MPs in the House of Commons via videolink on the latest situation in Ukraine. Picture: PA

In a defiant speech, he said: “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 forest, in the fields, on the shores, in the streets.”

He also pressed home the desire of Ukrainians for their independence to continue, despite their homeland being under attack by Kremlin forces, with a line from Hamlet.

“The question for us now is to be or not to be,” he said, in a translation by Parliament TV.

“Oh no, this Shakespearean question. For 13 days this question could have been asked, but now I can give you a definitive answer. It’s definitely yes, to be.”

His words reverberated through a packed chamber. Seats were so in demand the Commons authorities had to ban pass holders from bringing guests and issue tickets.

MPs from across the parties huddled together with headphones offering a live translation as a man the Russian Government has head-hunted demanded further support.

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The former comedian urged Russia to be labelled a terrorist state, called for more sanctions, and compared the conflict to the Nazi invasion of Europe.

In words that should rouse a UK Government accused of not going far enough, Mr Zelensky said Ukraine now was akin to Britain not wanting to “lose your country when the Nazis started to fight your country and you had to fight for Britain”.

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A visibly touched Prime Minister paid tribute to Mr Zelensky, claiming the president’s “righteous defence had moved the hearts of everybody in this House”.

Boris Johnson claimed “ordinary Ukrainian people” were inspiring millions “by their courage and their devotion”, adding “one of the proudest boasts in the free world” is “I am Ukrainian”.

He continued: “This is a moment to put our political differences aside and I know I speak for the whole House when I say 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, to press on with tightening the economic vice around Vladimir Putin and we will stop importing Russian oil.”

“And 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.”

In a rare sign of Commons unity, the Prime Minister’s comments were roared on from across the benches, and echoed by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

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Praising the Ukrainian leader’s courage, Sir Kier declared his party stands with “President Zelensky, with Ukraine, with democracy. Slava Ukraini”.

He said: “Invading troops march through his streets, shells rain 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.

“He has reminded us that our freedom and our democracy are invaluable. He has prompted a world into action, where too often we have let Putin have his way. He has inspired the Ukrainian nation to resist and frustrated the Russian war machine.

“He has shown his strength and we must show him, and the Ukrainian people, our commitment and support.”

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford demanded Britain send all the weapons Ukraine needed, and to make clear to President Putin the conflict “will end in failure for him, that he will face justice at the international court”.

He said: “President Zelensky, we salute you. We stand with the people of Ukraine on the basis of the act of aggression, on the act of war of Putin.

“We must stand in this House, throughout these islands, throughout the western world in defence of democracy, in defence of sovereignty.

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“Peace, justice and the sovereignty of Ukraine must prevail.”

Speaking to MPs after the address, many stressed they had never felt such a sense of unity in the House of Commons.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said: “I’ve never seen the Commons as full or as united as it was for the address by President Zelensky.

“He has shown throughout this war that he will lead the defence of his people and his country and the image that stays with me was the determined clenched fist he raised at the end of his address as he left our screens. He will fight to the end and we have to support him and the people of Ukraine.

“Moments like this are rare in history and while it was an honour to be in the House of Commons to listen to the speech, it’s now incumbent on the UK and allies around the world to do everything we can to support President Zelensky and Ukraine in this Russian war.”

Labour’s shadow Scotland secretary Ian Murray pointed to a part of the speech where the Ukrainian president revealed more than 50 children had been killed so far.

Calling for the UK to do “all we can”, he labelled it a “remarkable and moving moment” and an “honour to watch”.

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“A few minutes from the president meant so much more and the Commons was at its best,” he said.



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