UKRAINIAN President Volodymyr Zelensky was compared to British World War Two leader Sir Winston Churchill after giving an emotional address to MPs in the House of Commons, where he vowed to fight invading Russian troops in the air, sea and on the streets.
In a speech to the House of 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 the British Government 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.
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”.
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”.
“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.
Before the speech, the UK and the US jointly announced they would be banning the import of Russian oil and related products by 2023 as the allies looked to pile further economic pressure on President Vladimir Putin.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the nine-month delay until impact meant the fuel sector and other firms would have “more than enough time to replace Russian imports”.
With 8% of UK oil demand coming from Russia, the Cabinet minister urged businesses to “use this year to ensure a smooth transition so that consumers will not be affected”, with support given to find alternative supplies.
No UK petrol demand comes from Russia, nor heating or fuel oil, according to the Digest of UK Energy Statistics (Dukes) 2020.
However, 18% of total demand for diesel and 5% of jet fuel comes from Russia.
Beis officials said the ban, with the import of Russian oil making up almost half of Russian exports and 17% of federal government revenue through taxation, would “choke off a valuable source of income” for the Kremlin.
Speaking in Washington, President Joe Biden said the US joining in with the phased oil prohibition would be a “powerful blow” to the war being raged by Mr Putin.
Mr Johnson said the UK was “less exposed” than some European nations when it came to restricting Russian oil, with the European Union importing more than a quarter of its oil from Moscow.
During talks at Lancaster House, Downing Street said Mr Johnson and his Czech counterpart Petr Fiala agreed to work with European allies to ensure Russia can “no longer control energy supplies”, in a sign of a further push to come on blocking the Kremlin’s oil sales.
The Prime Minister met with Mr Fiala as part of discussions with the Visegrad group of countries, which also includes Slovakia, Hungary and Poland.