Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky invokes Churchill and Shakespeare as he addresses Britain’s House of Commons

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky invoked war leader Sir Winston Churchill in an emotional address to British MPs, vowing to fight invading Russian troops in the air, sea and on the streets.

is speech to Britain’s House of Commons came as some civilians managed to escape from the city of Suma but those trying to flee Mariupol once again found themselves under Russian fire, despite ceasefire promises.

In a speech to Commons that was greeted before and after by standing ovations, Mr Zelensky repeated his call for a no-fly zone to be established by the West, begging for the UK to “make sure that our Ukrainian skies are safe”.

The historic address came shortly after Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng announced the UK will phase out the import of Russian oil and oil products by the end of the year as part of a ratcheting up of sanctions on Moscow for the attack, which was launched on February 24.

Elsewhere, there has been frustration at the slow progress in Britain’s processing of Ukrainian refugees, with Defence Secretary Ben Wallace offering military support to the Home Office to help deal with the backlog of people trying to get into the UK.

During his address to the Commons, Mr Zelensky – who is said to have to keep his whereabouts a secret due to the threat of assassination in Kyiv – appealed to MPs by quoting from Shakespeare and paraphrasing Churchill.

In a nod to one of the former British prime minister’s most inspiring speeches of the war, Mr Zelensky 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.”

The embattled president said Ukraine faced a similar dilemma to the one Britain encountered in the Second World War.

He said the current conflict, in which he said 50 children had been killed, was akin to when Britain “didn’t want to lose your country when the Nazis started to fight your country and you had to fight for Britain”.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who received a personal thanks from Mr Zelensky for his support, told the Commons after the speech that “never before in all our centuries of our parliamentary democracy has the House listened to such an address”.

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“In a great European capital now within range of Russian guns, President Volodymyr Zelensky is standing firm for democracy and for freedom,” Mr Johnson said.

Civilians flee

Authorities evacuated thousands of people from the eastern city of Sumy on Tuesday, a senior Ukrainian official said.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said that 5,000 people, including 1,700 foreign students, were evacuated from Sumy.

Vereshchuk reaffirmed that Ukraine will not accept Moscow’s offer to establish safe corridors for civilians to head toward Russia, saying it will only agree to safe exits leading westward.

Vereshchuk said that the evacuation from the southern port of Mariupol failed on Tuesday because the Russian troops fired on a Ukrainian convoy carrying humanitarian cargo to Mariupol that was to carry civilians from the city on its way back. She said the city was in a “catastrophic situation” cut from water, power and communications, adding that a child in Mariupol has died of dehydration.

The Russian military has denied firing on convoys and charged that the Ukrainian side was blocking the evacuation effort.

Olena Zelenska

The Ukrainian president’s wife thanked the country’s allies Tuesday for their support and urged them to do more to deter Russia.

Olena Zelenska said in an open letter to global media released on Tuesday that the Russian invasion amounted to “the mass murder of Ukrainian civilians.”

She said that “the most terrifying and devastating of this invasion are the child casualties,” mentioning eight-year-old Alice who died on the streets of Okhtyrka while her grandfather tried to protect her, and Polina from Kyiv, who died in the shelling with her parents. She also cited 14-year-old Arseniy, who was hit in the head by wreckage, and could not be saved because an ambulance could not get to him on time because of intense fires.

Zelenska added that “this war is being waged against the civilian population, and not just through shelling,” citing the lack of basic medicines in the besieged Ukrainian cities.

She seconded President Volodymyr Zelensky’s call on Western allies to help counter the Russian air superiority, saying “close the sky, and we will manage the war on the ground ourselves.”


The Russian military offered again on Tuesday to provide humanitarian corridors for civilians to leave five Ukrainian cities after several previous attempts to establish safe exits have failed.

Ukrainian officials said that Russian shelling again made it impossible for civilians to use the corridors on Tuesday despite a deal reached a day earlier. The Russian military has countered the claim, alleging that Ukraine only has allowed civilians to use one corridor from the city of Sumy and blocked other routes from Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Mariupol.

Russian Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev said on Tuesday that the Russian military has announced it will stop firing at 10 a.m. Wednesday to let civilians leave safely via the corridors. He suggested setting up a hotline between Russia and Ukraine to coordinate the evacuation.

Polish planes

Poland said it would give all of its MiG-29 fighter jets to the U.S., apparently agreeing to an arrangement that would allow them to be used by Ukraine’s military. Ukraine has pleaded for more warplanes.

The decision came on Tuesday as Washington was looking at a proposal under which Poland would supply Ukraine with Soviet-era fighters and in turn receive American F-16s to make up for their loss. Ukrainian pilots are trained to fly Soviet-era fighter jets.

The Polish Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Poland is ready to deliver the jets to the U.S. Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

“At the same time, Poland requests the United States to provide us with used aircraft with corresponding operational capabilities,” it said.


Mr Zelensky’s health minister said sixty-one hospitals in Ukraine are not operational because of attacks by Russian forces.

“Terrorists from the aggressor country have put 61 hospitals out of action,” Viktor Lyashko said, adding that the authorities were unable to deliver critical medical supplies to front-line communities because of a lack of “humanitarian corridors.” Russia denies attacking civilian, something that would require more resources than Mr Putin has committed.


Refugees crossing from Ukraine at the Herbenne border in Poland (Photo: Mark Condren)

U.S. President Joe Biden was expected to announce a ban on Russian oil later on Tuesday, a significant step in Western powers’ response to the Russian invasion.

With the war in its 13th day, the number of refugees who have fled Ukraine has surged past 2 million in what the United Nations describes as one of the fastest exoduses in modern times.

In Mariupol, hundreds of thousands of people have been sheltering under bombardment without water or power for more than a week.

“Ceasefire violated! Russian forces are now shelling the humanitarian corridor from Zaporizhzhia to Mariupol,” Ukraine’s foreign ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko wrote on Twitter.

Thirty buses had been sent for evacuations.

President Zelensky said a child had died of dehydration in Mariupol because water was cut off. 


A resident tries to clear the shelling debris from a flat in Kramatorsk. Photo: Anatolii Stepanov/ AFP

The United Nations human rights office said it had verified 1,335 civilian casualties in Ukraine, including 474 killed and 861 injured, since the invasion kicked off on February 24. But the true toll was likely to be higher, it said.


Refugees crossing from Ukraine at the Herbenne border in Poland (Photo: Mark Condren)

There were allegations of hundreds of civilian casualties in Volnovakha, Mariupol and other urban areas from bombing and shelling of residential areas, it said.

Peace talks

THE Kremlin yesterday offered its terms for a peace deal with Ukraine on a day when Vladimir Putin’s invasion again remained bogged down.

After 12 days of intense fighting, the Russian president’s spokesman said the war could be halted “in a moment” if Kyiv were to agree to Moscow’s demands.

Opponents of Mr Putin said the offer was a climbdown on the Russian’s president’s call to “de-Nazify” Ukraine and showed his war had been a “failure”.

Russian troops continued to suffer heavy losses and had failed to gain air superiority, while a 65km armoured convoy north of Kyiv remained stalled and open to counter-attack.

In contrast to Mr Putin’s refusal to recognise Ukraine’s right to exist, Dmitry Peskov, his spokesman, yesterday accepted the country was an “independent state” and laid out the most explicit terms yet for a ceasefire.

That included Ukraine recognising Moscow’s right to rule Crimea and the independence of two Russian-held separatist regions. The Kremlin is also demanding that Kyiv remains neutral and not join either Nato or the EU.

But senior political sources said the deal should be treated with “scepticism” amid fears the Kremlin was setting a trap as a prelude to more bombardment of Ukraine cities.


Western sanctions have already cut off Russia from international trade and financial markets.

U.S. President Joe Biden will sign an executive order banning import of Russian oil, liquefied natural gas, and coal to the United States in retaliation for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the White House said on Tuesday.

The executive order will prohibit Americans from financing or enabling foreign companies that are making investment to produce energy in Russia, the White House said, adding it also bans new U.S. investment in Russia’s energy sector.

The ban on Russian energy imports includes crude oil, certain petroleum products, LNG and coal, according to the White House.

Russia is the world’s biggest exporter of oil and natural gas, and until now its energy exports had been exempted from the international sanctions.

Although the United States is not a leading buyer of Russian oil, its allies are likely to come under pressure to also wean their economies off Russian energy.


Refugees with their teddy bears after crossing from Ukraine at the Herbenne border in Poland (Photo: Mark Condren)

The U.S. announcement will also intensify the impact of the war on a global economy already suffering supply shortages and price surges as it lurches out of the pandemic crisis. In the United States, gas pump prices have already hit a record since Russia launched the invasion.

“That’s the cost of standing up for freedom and standing alongside the Ukrainian people, but it’s going to cost us,” U.S. Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat, told CNN.

Britain’s Shell, one of several Western oil majors to announce it is pulling out of Russian projects, went further on Tuesday, saying it would no longer buy any Russian oil or gas and apologising for buying a Russian crude shipment last week.

The war could also worsen global shortages of other commodities since both Russia and Ukraine are major exporters of food and metals. Trade in London of the industrial metal Nickel was suspended on Tuesday after prices doubled within hours.

McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Starbucks became the latest high-profile firms to suspend their Russian operations


Corridors to let civilians escape and allow aid reach besieged areas have been the main subject of talks between Russian and Ukrainian delegations.

Russia’s Interfax news agency said Moscow was opening humanitarian corridors for the cities of Sumy, Mariupol, Cherhihiv, Kharkiv and the capital Kyiv.

Ukraine has rejected Russian proposals for Kharkiv and Kyiv that would lead evacuees to Russia or its ally Belarus. Earlier attempts to evacuate residents from Mariupol failed on Saturday and Sunday, with each side accusing the other of continuing to fire.

Western countries say Russia’s initial battle plan for a rapid strike to topple the Kyiv government failed in the early days of the war, and Moscow has adjusted tactics for longer sieges of cities.

“The tempo of the enemy’s advance has slowed considerably, and in certain directions where they were advancing it has practically stopped,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych told a televised briefing on Tuesday.

Ukraine’s defence ministry said Vitaly Gerasimov, first deputy commander of Russia’s 41st army, was killed on Monday, the second Russian major general killed since the invasion began. Russia’s defence ministry could not be reached for comment.

Joe Biden’s top intelligence official has said the US believes Russia underestimated the strength of Ukraine’s resistance before launching an invasion that is likely to have caused thousands of Russian casualties.

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told a congressional panel that US officials believe Putin feels “aggrieved” by Russia’s failure to subdue Ukraine and that he perceives that he cannot afford to lose the war.


Refugees after crossing the border into Poland (Photo: Mark Condren)

But what Mr Putin might consider a victory could change given the escalating costs of the conflict to Russia, she added.

Despite Mr Putin’s announcement that he would raise Russia’s alert level for nuclear weapons, Ms Haines said the US has not observed unusual changes in Russia’s nuclear posture.

She said it is “unclear at this stage” whether Russia will try to conquer all of Ukraine.

Traffic jam

The main Russian assault force heading towards Kyiv has been stuck on a road north of the capital. But to the south, Russia has made more progress along the Black and Azov Sea coasts.

Within Russia, the war has led to a severe new crackdown on dissent, with the last remaining independent media largely shut last week and foreign broadcasters banned. Many foreign news organisations have suspended reporting after a new law imposed jail terms for reporting deemed to discredit the military.

The top U.N. human rights official, Michelle Bachelet, said 12,700 people in Russia had already been detained at anti-war demonstrations.


Transport minister Eamon Ryan has said that he would encourage his fellow Cabinet ministers to take Ukrainian refugees into their homes.

Mr Ryan’s comments came as it emerged British home secretary Priti Patel had rung justice minister Helen McEntee and raised concerns over Ukrainian refugees accepted into Ireland as part of the EU then making their way to the UK.

Mr Ryan did also not rule out another package to tackle inflation due to the Russian invasion, with loud calls for cuts to tax on fuel.

Minister Ryan said that he would have to talk to his “wife and four adult children” before taking a refugee in.

However, asked if he would encourage his Cabinet colleagues to take in refugees into their homes if they have the space, he said: “Yes.”

“I understand that the response of the Irish people has already been remarkable,” he said.

He said that the Government’s ‘pledge portal’ yesterday online crashed for some time as it was overwhelmed by people logging on and offering their services on how they can help refugees.

The Taoiseach today revealed UK Home Secretary Priti Patel rang Minister for Justice Helen McEntee over British concerns over Ukrainian refugees arriving to Ireland.

Micheál Martin said Ms McEntee had “pointed out” to Ms Patel that Ireland was part of the EU-wide response to the crisis.

This meant acting with other European Union countries “in terms of waiving visa requirements as a humanitarian response.”

“That continues to be our position in respect of prioritising the humanitarian response, above and beyond anything else,” Mr Martin said.

Meanwhile, Britain’s dripping tap of Ukrainian admissions to the UK has been slammed by TDs at Leinster House.

And particular outrage has been expressed at an official leak to the Daily Telegraph about a fear that Ukrainian criminals could be admitted by Ireland’s open door policy – and then travel freely to Britain under the Common Travel Area.

“I think it’s disgraceful and there’s a responsibility to actually do a lot more and for them to welcome people into their country,” said Jennifer Whitmore, the Social Democrat TD for Wicklow.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin has said a cut in excise duty could reduce the price at the pumps by 25c a litre and should be done immediately.

A financial resolution could be introduced and passed by midnight, as in the case with Budget measures, she said, noting that House is not sitting next week.

Excise duty should also be taken off home heating oil, with a half-tank now costing households €700, Mary Lou McDonald said.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the war in Ukraine was going to increase further the cost of fuels.

“The Government is acutely conscious of this issue. We don’t argue that it is sustainable he said,” noting the impact also on inflation, including on food because of Ukraine’s massive exports of grain to the West.

An EU toolbox was emerging on inflation, but the Government was also giving the matter “active consideration,” he said, before adding: “I don’t want to get into specifics right now.”

Mr Zelensky’s speech to Britain’s House of Commons in full:

“Mr speaker, all the members of parliament, I’m addressing all the people of the United Kingdom and all the people from the country with a big history. I’m addressing you as a citizen of also a big country with a dream and big effort.

“I would like to tell you about the 13 days of war, the war we didn’t start and didn’t want.”

“On day one at four o’clock in the morning we were attacked by missiles, the entire Ukraine woke up and since that we have not been sleeping.

“On day two we were fighting airstrikes and we have been trying to fight when Russian forces demanded that we lay down arms, however, we did continue fighting and they did feel our force.

“The next day the artillery started fighting us. We have been able to see who our people are. On day four we started getting people captive, we have not tortured them, we remained humane even on day four of this terrible war.

“On day five the terror of this war was going on against us, against children and constant shelling took place and that didn’t break us.

“On day six the Russian rockets fell, even churches are getting destroyed by shelling.

“On day eight we have seen Russian tanks hitting the atomic power station and this terror is against everyone.

“On day nine there was a meeting of NATO countries without the result we were looking for.

“On day 10 the Ukrainians started protesting, stopping the armed vehicles with their own hands.


Members of the Honour Guard stand next to a coffin with a body of the member of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Valerii, who was killed during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, during a funeral ceremony in Kyiv. Picture: Reuters

“On day eleven children and hospitals were being hit with constant shelling, on that day we realised Ukrainians became heroes.

“On day 12 the losses of the Russian army exceeded 12,000 people killed.

“On day 13, in the city of Mariupol that was attacked by Russian forces a child was killed. They do not allow any food or water and people started panicking.

“People do not have water for over 13 days of this situation. Over 50 children have been killed, these are the children who could have lived but these people have taken them away from us.

“We’re the country that are saving people despite having to fight one of the biggest armies in the world. We have to fight the helicopters and rockets.

“The question is to be or not to be and the answer is definitely to be.

“We will not give up, we will not lose, we will continue fighting for our land whatever the cost.

“We are looking for your help, for the help of the civilised countries, we’re thankful for this help. Please increase the pressure of sanctions against this country, please make sure our Ukrainian skies are safe. Please make sure you do what needs to be done.” Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky invokes Churchill and Shakespeare as he addresses Britain’s House of Commons

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