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'Ireland, Slava Ukraini': Zelenskyy labels Russia a 'colonial empire' in historic address to Oireachtas

The Ukrainian President received a standing ovation after 13-minute address.

TheJournal.ie / YouTube

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR Zelenskyy told a historic joint sitting of the Oireachtas that Russia is “using hunger as a weapon” and that Ireland “has not remained neutral” on the disaster unfolding in his country. 

During a 13 minute address by videolink to the Dáil and Seanad, Zelenksyy likened Russia to a 21st century colonial empire and thanked Ireland for its support of Ukraine’s efforts to join the EU. 

Zelenskyy told TDs that Russia should no longer be accepted as a civilised nation due to its bombing of hospitals, churches and shelters in Ukraine. 

It should be held responsible for everything they have done on Ukrainian soil. They have come to Ukraine as a colonising army, their state propagandists and their politicians are not even concealing what they want. In the 21st century, they’re looking at their country as a colonial empire who allegedly has the right to subdue a neighboring people and destroy the foundations of their independent life, their identity. 

Zelenskyy did not directly mention Irish history but he spoke about Russia’s use of hunger as a weapon and” instrument of domination” in Ukraine, referencing the siege of Mariupol. 

They’re putting mines into the fields. They also have blocked all of our seaports, together with the vessels that had already agricultural cargoes for export. Why are they doing this? Because for them hunger is also a weapon, a weapon against us ordinary people, as an instrument of domination.

TheJournal.ie / YouTube

Zelenskyy said Ireland has not remained neutral on the disaster that Russia has inflicted on his country.

“You did not doubt starting helping us, you began doing this right away and although you are a neutral country, you have not remained neutral to the disaster and to the mishaps that Russia has brought to Ukraine,” he said, adding that he was grateful to every citizen of Ireland and for the country’s support.

“Thank you for the humanitarian and financial support extended to our country and thank you for your caring about Ukrainian people who found shelter on your land,” he said.

Zelenksyy said he would ask Ireland to “show more leadership in our anti-war coalition”. 

I’d like to ask you to convince EU partners to introduce even more rigid sanctions against Russia that would really make sure that the Russian war machine will stop.

He said there is now a “new page” of relations between Ireland and Ukraine and he predicted that it was “a matter of time” before both nations were together in the EU. 

Zelenskyy concluded his remarks by saying he was ‘grateful to Ireland Ireland, Slava Ukraini’.

There was a standing ovation in the chamber with many of the TDs present wearing yellow and blue clothing or pins of the Ukraine flag to show their support. 

People Before Profit TDs stood up after the speech but Paul Murphy, Bríd Smith, Richard Boyd Barrett and Gino Kenny did not applaud, saying it was a protest against sanctions hurting the Russian people and Ukraine’s banning of certain political parties. 

TheJournal.ie / YouTube

Taoiseach

Following Zelesnkyy’s address, Taoiseach Micheal Martin said that Ireland “is resolute in our solidarity and support for Ukraine”.

He said he was certain that Ukraine would prevail in its war with Russia and that the invader “will have to live with the shame of what they have done in Ukraine for generations”

“Those responsible will be held to account,” he said. 

We are a militarily neutral country. However, we are not politically neutral in the face of war crimes. Quite the opposite, our position is informed by the principles that drive our foreign policy, support for international human rights, for humanitarian law, and for a rules-based international order. We are not neutral when Russia disregards all of these principles. We are with Ukraine.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that Zelenskyy’s words had “ shamed us and the rest of the world for enough doing more sooner”. 

He described Russias a “a new evil empire”. 

“In the long history of our own country, we have never invaded another but we do know what it’s like to have been invaded and to have the very existence of our national identity questioned. For these reasons, we feel for the idealism of the Ukrainian people, their defiance and their determination to face down a new evil empire,” Varadkar said.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said that, instead of trying to find peace, Russia has escalated its attacks by targeting civilians.

“Russia has turned its back on dialogue and peace for 42 days and nights. It has chosen war, it has chosen brutality, it has chosen the violation of international law. Russia has closed the door on dialogue and through its criminal actions, it has thus far rejected avenues for diplomacy,” she said. 

McDonald said the Russian embassy in Ireland has acted as a force for propaganda about the war and said it was “long past time for Yury Filatov to be expelled from Ireland”.

Labour leader Ivana Bacik also called for the expulsion of the ambassador because of his “brazen denials of the truth of what is happening in Ukraine”. 

Bacik added: “We are calling for strong support for Ukraine’s expedited accession to the EU, a full embargo on Russian oil and gas to join with the welcome move on coal, urgent initiation of investigations into Russian war crimes against civilians, including crimes of sexual violence against women that we’re hearing such appalling reports about.”

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