Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has urged the European Union to prove that it sides with Ukraine in its war with Russia a day after signing an official request to join the bloc.
“We are fighting to be equal members of Europe,” Zelenskyy told an emergency session of the European Parliament yesterday via video link.
“Do prove that you are with us. Do prove that you will not let us go. Do prove that you are indeed Europeans and then life will win over death and light will win over darkness,” he said in Ukrainian in a speech translated to English by an interpreter talking through tears, as emotion gripped the parliament.
Zelenskyy has remained in Kyiv to rally his people against the invasion. As he spoke yesterday, a Russian armoured column was bearing down on Ukraine’s capital.
EU lawmakers, many wearing #standwithUkraine T-shirts bearing the Ukrainian flag, others with blue-and-yellow scarves or ribbons, gave Zelenskyy a standing ovation.
“The EU will be much stronger with us. Without you, Ukraine will be lonesome,” Zelenskyy said, with Kyiv likely well aware that Ukraine’s membership bid will be long and difficult.
EU legislators are expected to call Russia a “rogue state” and urge the 27-nation bloc to agree even tougher sanctions, according to a draft text they will vote on, Reuters reported.
The EU has taken unprecedented steps, including financing weapons deliveries to Ukraine, after Russia’s President Vladimir Putin launched a war on its neighbour last week.
According to the draft resolution and amendments backed by the assembly’s main parties, legislators will call for the scope of sanctions to be broadened and to be “aimed at strategically weakening the Russian economy and industrial base, in particular, the military-industrial complex”.
The European Parliament will also urge EU leaders to be tougher on oligarchs and officials close to the Russian leadership, restrict oil and gas imports from Russia, ban Russia and its ally Belarus entirely from the SWIFT bank messaging system, and to close all EU ports to Russian ships or ships headed to or from Russia.
“The message from Europe is clear. We will stand up, we will not look away when those fighting in the street for our values stand down Putin’s war machine,” EU Parliament President Roberta Metsola said, speaking in front of the EU and Ukrainian flags.
Russia has called its actions in Ukraine a “special operation”.
On Sunday, Zelenskyy officially signed Ukraine’s request to join the EU.
In an open letter, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Romania expressed support for Ukraine’s swift candidacy.
Chairman of EU leaders Charles Michel said yesterday EU institutions and governments will have to seriously look at Ukraine’s request for EU membership and respond to Kyiv’s “legitimate” request.
Michel noted however that while Ukraine’s application was “symbolic”, there was no unity on the issue of enlargement in the 27-nation bloc.
“It is going to be difficult, we know there are different views in Europe,” Michel told the European parliament.
“The council [of EU governments] will have to seriously look at the symbolic, political and legitimate request that has been made and make the appropriate choice in a determined and clear-headed manner,” Michel said.
So far, at least 136 civilians, including 13 children, have been killed and 400 others, including 26 children, injured in Ukraine, according to UN figures.
More than 660 000 people have fled Ukraine to neighbouring countries, the UN Refugee Agency said yesterday.–Al Jazeera.