Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in an impassioned address to Canada’s parliament on Tuesday doubled down on his plea for a no-fly zone, asking lawmakers to imagine their own cities being bombed at an appalling human cost.
In the video address, the Ukrainian leader accused Russia’s military of “destroying everything: memorial complexes, schools, hospitals, housing complexes.”
“They’ve already killed 97 Ukrainian children,” Zelensky said.
“We’re not asking for much. We’re asking for justice, for real support, which will help us to prevail, to defend (ourselves), to save lives,” he said, receiving a standing ovation from lawmakers.
He renewed his calls for a no-fly zone over Ukraine to “stop the bombing.” NATO allies, including Canada, have rejected the proposal, fearing it would lead to an expansion of the conflict.
“Can you imagine when you call your friends and you ask to please close the sky, close the air space, please stop the bombing?… And they (simply) express their deep concerns about the situation,” he lamented. “How many more cruise missiles have to fall on our cities until you make this happen?”
Zelensky asked rhetorically how Canadians would react if Russia laid siege to Vancouver, bombed the Ottawa airport or targeted the CN Tower in Toronto, while listing off historic sites in Ukraine that have come under bombardment.
“I know that you all support Ukraine,” Zelensky said to MPs, “but I would like you to understand, to feel what we feel every day.”
“Imagine that Canadian facilities have been bombed similarly as our buildings and memorial places are being bombed,” he said. “A number of families have died. Every night is a horrible night.”
Sanctions not enough
Several times in his 12-minute speech, Zelensky addressed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau directly, asking him how he would explain war to his own children: “Justin, can you imagine you and your children hearing all these severe explosions” starting each morning at 4 a.m.?”
The Ukrainian leader described cities with no heat or electricity, without any means of communicating, and running out of food and water as they seek cover in bomb shelters.
“This is exactly the situation that our city of Mariupol is suffering right now,” Zelensky said, as some 20,000 fled the besieged port city on Tuesday.
Canada has the second-largest Ukrainian diaspora in the world with nearly 1.4 million (3.8 percent) of the total population being of Ukrainian descent.
On Wednesday, Zelensky is to address the American Congress, after already having spoken to the British and European parliaments.
Earlier, Trudeau announced sanctions against 15 more Russian officials, including “government and military elites who are complicit in this illegal war.”
The move brings the number of Belarusian, Russian and Ukrainian individuals and entities sanctioned by Ottawa since the start of the war last month to nearly 500.
“Vladimir Putin’s blatant disregard for human life is unacceptable,” the Canadian leader said, while praising Zelensky as an inspiration.
“Democracies around the world are lucky to have you as our champion,” he said, vowing that Ukraine “can count on our unwavering and steadfast support.”
Zelensky thanked Canada for the sanctions as well as military equipment and humanitarian aid.
But, he said, “unfortunately this just did not bring an end to the war.” “We all need to do more to stop Russia, to protect Ukraine.”
“Please expand your efforts to bring back peace in our peaceful country,” he said.
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