Describes latest Russian atrocities to head-bowed silence
Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the Portuguese parliament today, outlining the latest atrocities in his war-ravaged country, and renewing his appeals for more armaments.
He described how Russian soldiers “kill for fun, torturing, raping, murdering people and shooting into the middle of cars carrying children”.
Even wearing masks it was possible to see acute discomfort on MPs faces as a litany of horrors was recounted through an interpreter.
Mr Zelenskyy himself looked exhausted.
This is the 57th day of war, and Ukraine as it was before February 24 no longer exists.
Millions of people have been forced to flee, said the president. “It is as if the entire population of Portugal was forced to leave the country…”
Alluding to the celebration of Portugal’s Carnation Revolution on Monday (April 25), the 44-year-old Ukrainian leader said Portugal “knows well what dictatorship brings”.
As far as he is concerned – a belief shared by many political analysts – Russia will not stop in the Ukraine. The regime seeks to invade ‘all the countries next to us’ and keep going, said Zelenskyy. This is a fight for freedom not just of Ukraine, but of the ‘free world’.
“When we appeal for support, we ask for simple things”, he said. “We want heavy weapons to recover our cities. The harm being done now to Ukraine is similar to that inflicted during the Second World War. I appeal to your country to help us with accelerating and increasing sanctions and for military support”.
As has happened in all the audiences Voldymyr Zelenskyy has had with foreign governments, his speech received a standing ovation.
The only people who did not applaud appeared to be the prime minister and members of the government, sitting below the ‘top tier’ of seats accommodating President Marcelo and the leader of the House Augusto Santos Silva.
Mr Santos Silva then gave a speech in response to Mr Zelenskyy, in which he stressed that “the struggle for freedom of your country is the struggle of Europe for all freedom – and to this struggle for freedom, democratic Portugal has never failed, does not fail and will not fail”.
Mr Santos Silva’s discourse, referring to Portugal’s wishes to see Ukraine integrated within the EU; the country’s welcome of over 31,000 refugees, and aid sent to Ukraine so far, also received a standing ovation.
This was not the occasion for new pledges of military aid, just the pledge of solidarity and full awareness of the grim reality of war in Ukraine.
PCP communists were not present to hear the session*. The party has been reduced to six MPs, thus their absence was barely noticeable.
Chega arrived ‘late’, but took part as every other party, standing and applauding at the end of Mr Zelenskyy’s speech.
In all, it was a relatively short ‘solemn session’, ending with the playing of both countries’ national anthems.
Mr Zelenskyy was seen standing during the playing of the Ukrainian national anthem, his lips moving to the words. Shortly afterwards, the videolink was broken.
President Marcelo has since uploaded a message on his official page, saying: “In this hour in which there is only place for Humanity, Fraternity and Solidarity, we are all Ukrainians”.
He thanked the young president not just for addressing Portugal through its parliament, but for the example “the martyrised Ukrainian people have given the world”.
Marcelo acknowledged “the courage, resistance, sense of affirmation of independence, sovereignty and national unity”.
He acknowledged “the soldiers, and especially the civilians, devasted by the horrors of war and obliged to abandon their country.”
“Portugal has been, since the first hour, and always will be, with the heroic People of Ukraine and their fight, supporting – namely through the European Union, NATO and the United Nations – and taking in the exceptional Ukrainian people who live among us or who want to come from Ukraine and stay here”, he wrote.
Other parliamentary figures have been tweeting and posting their impressions – and perhaps drawing a clear line in the sand between their take on the situation and that of PCP communists, coordinator of Bloco de Esquerda, Catarina Martins, has said: “Ukraine has the right to see its integrity respected. We need to support the resistance and the Ukrainian people. Russia must be left without the money to wage war in Ukraine. A path towards peace, with negotiations under the aegis of the United Nations, needs to be created. The sanctions against the Putin regime need to be reinforced”.
For this to have come from a party that in the past has spoken out against the EU and NATO, shows how much war in Ukraine has changed people’s feelings.
*PCP communists may not have been in parliament for the session, but they were clearly listening to it somewhere as they have since said they found Mr Zelenskyy’s reference to the Abril 25 “insulting”.