Zelensky evokes Luxembourg motto during parliament speech
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky evoked the Grand Duchy’s national slogan as he addressed the country's parliament on Thursday, saying Ukrainians “want to remain what we are”, almost 100 days since Russia launched an attack on its neighbour.
Wearing a green t-shirt with ‘Ukraine’ written on one side, Zelensky appeared via videolink to a packed chamber, on a large screen covering the entire wall behind the podium where politicians normally stand to speak.
At the end of his 15-minute speech, deputies rose to give the Ukrainian leader a standing ovation and applause, to which Zelensky placed his hand on his chest and gave a nod.
“We want to remain what we are, as your motto states,” he said, making reference to Luxembourg’s national slogan (Mir wëlle bleiwe wat mir sinn). “Why are we battling today? It’s to remain who we are.”
Parliament's gallery was also full, with ambassadors, Ukraine's Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzhaparova, members of the public, and the press in attendance. Outside, around 100 people gathered, many carrying the Ukrainian flag, amid tight security, with the entrance to the parliament building barricaded.
100 days: 30,000 soldiers lost
Friday will mark the 100th day since the start of Russia’s war on Ukraine.
“In those 100 days, we have lost 30,000 soldiers,” Zelensky said. “Russia is prepared to continue because one man has the desire to not let us be what we are.”
Around 20% of Ukrainian territory is now under Russian occupation, Zelensky told the chamber. Russia has increased its attack on eastern Ukraine and now controls more than two-thirds of the city of Severodonetsk. If Russian forces manage to control the entire city, it will have captured almost all of the Luhansk region.
This week, Russia hit a chemical plant in Severodonetsk, causing a large cloud of orange, thought to be nitric acid, to rise to the sky.
“Every day, Ukraine is hit by missiles,” Zelensky said. “Yesterday, Russia fired 15 missiles. Since February, 2,478 missiles have been fired and most hit civilian infrastructures.”
'Start preparing seventh package'
The Ukrainian President, whose speech was being simultaneously interpreted from Ukrainian into French, invited Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Chamber President Fernand Etgen to travel to Kiyv and address the parliament.
“We are grateful to your government for helping Ukraine,” Zelensky said. “I am very grateful for your active role concerning sanctions towards Russia.”
European leaders on Monday agreed to pursue a partial ban on Russian oil, opening ways for a potential sixth package of sanctions on Russia following its attack on Ukraine.
The new sanctions would forbid the purchase of crude oil and petroleum products from Russia delivered to member states by sea but would also include a temporary exemption for pipeline crude.
After almost a month of negotiations EU leaders reached a deal this week, with shipments of oil through the Druzhba pipeline to central Europe to be spared from the embargo until a technical solution is found that satisfies the energy needs of Hungary and other landlocked nations.
Hungary's behaviour "unacceptable"
Bettel said he had told Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán that his "behaviour is unacceptable" as the country's stalling threatens to derail the deal.
The Ukrainian leader should widen his focus for building support beyond Europe and visit parliaments in Africa and Latin America, Bettel added.
However, Europe needs to go even further, Zelensky said, and leaders should “already start preparing the seventh package".
“Today, Europe is taking a big test. Is it capable of defending its values?,” he asked.
Zelensky called on Luxembourg to support an accelerated process for Ukraine to be granted EU membership, to which Bettel replied that the Grand Duchy will not oppose its candidacy and will “do everything” it can to help Ukraine to fulfil any conditions the European Commission may impose.
Luxembourg's prime minister re-iterated his appeal for Zelensky to enter into direct negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying it is important to have that meeting.
Bettel has previously been in contact with Putin but ended his communication with him following reports of the Bucha massacre, where civilians were killed. “I cannot,” he said. “It was simply impossible.”
Around 5,500 Ukrainians have found refuge in Luxembourg, Bettel said.
“I am proud to be a prime minister of a country where private initiatives had no limits,” Bettel said. “People are not looking for better lives, they are looking for survival.”
Luxembourg's prime minister said he was at Zelensky's "disposal" to help "end this situation" in any way, such as facilitating direct talks between Vladimir Putin and the Ukrainian leader.