Volodymyr Zelenskiy has invoked the fall of the Berlin Wall in an attempt to persuade German MPs to do everything possible to halt Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Speaking to the German parliament via video, the Ukrainian president upbraided Germany – Europe’s largest economy – for having persisted in the past in its insistence that the gas pipelines Nord Stream 1 and 2 and other business projects with Russia, were “purely economic” and not politics.
Zelenskiy said attempts to address the issue with Germany over the years had been repeatedly met with the response “economy, economy, economy”. He said delays in efforts to allow his country to become a member of Nato and the EU, as well as insufficient economic sanctions against Russia before the invasion, had contributed to allowing the attack.
He referred to a “new wall” in the middle of Europe, “between freedom and lack of freedom” which he accused Germany of having helped to build by protecting its business interests with Russia at the cost of isolating Ukraine, epitomized by its support for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline via the Baltic Sea, which has now been abandoned.
“This wall is only getting bigger with every bomb that lands on Ukraine and with every decision that is not made,” he said.
Zelenskiy cited the words of Ronald Reagan, like himself, he said, an actor-turned-president, who as US president on a visit to Berlin in 1987, urged the last leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, to “tear down this wall”, referring to the Berlin Wall which divided Germany between 1961 and 1989.
“That’s what I say to you, dear Chancellor Scholz: demolish this wall,” he said.
Renewing his call for a no-fly zone to be established over Ukraine, he referred to the historic 1948-1949 Berlin airlift, when western allies flew supplies into West Berlin after the Soviet Union blocked all land access to it.
“Right now we cannot build an air bridge, because all that is falling from our skies are Russian bombs,” he said.
He urged Scholz: “Give Germany the leadership role that it has earned, so that your descendants can be proud of you. Support freedom, support Ukraine, stop this war, help us to stop this war.” His words from him were met with rousing applause.
Referring to the situation in the surrounded port city of Mariupol in which a theater sheltering around 1,000 citizens was attacked on Wednesday, Zelenskiy said: “Russian troops are bombarding our cities and destroying everything that is in the Ukraine. Whether housing, hospitals, schools, churches – everything. With rockets, air bombs, artillery.”
Thousands had already died, including 108 children, he said. “And we’re talking about the middle of Europe, in the year 2022. Once again attempts are being made to annihilate an entire people.”
Zelenskiy’s 11-minute address to the Bundestag was delayed for several minutes following a military attack that had taken place in Kyiv in the vicinity of where he was due to speak, Katrin Göring-Eckardt, the chamber’s deputy president, told MPs.
Most MPs in attendance were dressed in black, some wearing blue and yellow scarves, handkerchiefs or face masks, as a sign of their support for Ukraine. Many were visibly moved by Zelenskiy’s appeal to him.
Following the speech, there were shouted complaints in the chamber over the government’s refusal to allow a discussion on the situation in Ukraine and specifically an update on what Germany was currently doing. Instead MPs went on to talk about the plans to introduce a Covid-19 vaccine mandate.
Before the session, Germany’s foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, had defended the government’s decision not to debate Ukraine immediately following on from Zelenskiy’s address. “I believe in such a moment as this, listening is a real strength. Just listen and let the words speak for themselves,” she said.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism