Echoing Churchill, Zelenskyy Vows Ukraine Will Fight to End

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on the screen as he addresses British lawmakers.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is displayed on the screen as he addresses British lawmakers in the House of Commons in London, Thursday March 8, 2022. (Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament via AP)

LONDON — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy evoked wartime British leader Winston Churchill on Tuesday as he told the U.K. Parliament that Ukrainians would fight Russian invaders to the end in the country's forests, fields and streets.

Zelenskyy told British lawmakers “we will not give up and we will not lose,” in a speech that evoked the stirring “never surrender” speech delivered by Churchill in 1940 during the darkest days of World War II.

“We will fight till the end at sea, in the air. We will continue fighting for our land, whatever the cost,” he said. “We will fight in the forests, in the fields, on the shores, in the streets” and even on the banks of rivers.

Churchill's speech vowed to fight Nazi troops “on the beaches .. on the landing grounds ... in the fields and in the streets.”

Speaking by video from Ukraine and wearing army green, Zelenskyy thanked Britain for its support, which includes humanitarian aid and defensive weapons. He urged the U.K. to increase sanctions on Russia, to recognize Russia as “a terrorist country” and to keep Ukraine’s skies safe. Zelenskyy has pleaded with NATO leaders to enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine, but they have resisted, saying that could lead to a direct military confrontation with Russia.

Describing the destruction of schools and hospitals and the deaths of civilians under Russian bombardment during the two-week conflict, Zelenskyy said Ukraine “didn’t start and didn’t want” the war.

“However we have to conduct this war, we do not want to lose what we have, what is ours, our country Ukraine,” he said.

Zelenskyy evoked another British hero, William Shakespeare, quoting “Hamlet” when he said “the question for us now is ’to be or not to be.”

“I can give you a definitive answer. It’s definitely yes — to be,” he said.

Zelenskyy's powerful video messages, both to the Ukrainian people and to the world, have played a major role in rallying support for Ukraine's defense against invasion. His speech to the British politicians follows an address last week to hundreds of U.S. Congress members, in which he urged the United States to help get more warplanes to his military and cut off Russian oil imports. President Joe Biden announced the latter move on Tuesday.

Tuesday’s address was the first time a foreign leader was allowed to address Britain's House of Commons. Screens and simultaneous interpretation headsets were set up in the chamber so lawmakers could hear him.

Applause is usually barred in the Commons, but lawmakers rose to give Zelenskyy standing ovations both before and after his speech.

Johnson said Zelenskyy had “moved the hearts of everybody in this House.”

Promising to toughen sanctions on Russia, and referring to Britain’s announcement that it, too, will end imports of Russian oil, Johnson promised to “employ every method – diplomatic, humanitarian and economic … until Vladimir Putin has failed in this disastrous venture and Ukraine is free once more.”

The war has brought unusual political agreement in Britain’s fractious Parliament. Keir Starmer, leader of the left-of-center opposition Labour Party, said his party “stands for the toughest sanctions that will cripple the Russian state. Labour stands for providing Ukraine with the arms it needs to fight off their invaders.

“Labour stands with President Zelenskyy, with Ukraine, with democracy,” he said. “Slava Ukraini” -- Glory to Ukraine.

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