If everyone were as brave as the UK and Ukraine then Russia’s war would already be over, President Zelensky declared last night.
‘If everyone in the world… were steadfast and courageous leaders like Ukraine, like Britain, I am sure we would have already ended this war and restored peace throughout our liberated territory, for all our people,’ he said.
It comes after Boris Johnson twice visited Kyiv – including once since the Russian invasion – to pledge support for Zelensky’s government, and made an historic video address to the country’s parliament earlier this week.
The British Prime Minister also addressed Kyiv’s parliament on Tuesday, during which he announced a new £300million package of military support to the country – to a succession of standing ovations.
In an address on Thursday evening, Zelensky praised Britain and Boris Johnson specifically for helping to ‘defend European freedom’. Pictured: Mr Johnson visits Kyiv and Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky on April 9
‘Unbreakable people of the bravest country!’ the president said speaking through a translator to Britain’s Chatham House think tank, before going on to describe the dire situation in his country under Russian invasion.
‘Russian troops today, as every day during this war, have continued to bomb our cities and our people,’ Zelensky said.
‘For example, my traditional morning meeting with the military was the leadership of the army, with government officials and diplomats was accompanied by the sound of an air raid sirens. This is our reality.
‘Missile strikes every day. The day before yesterday, on the day when you, Boris, addressed parliament, addressed our parliament, the Russian army launched 15 missile strikes at Ukraine.
The embattled leader said that the Russian strikes during Mr Johnson’s speech were a sign that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin was not happy with the relationship between Ukraine and the UK.
‘This can be called a certain “Russian compliment” to your brilliant speech and our fruitful interstate cooperation,’ Zelensky said.
‘Because yesterday there were only 7 such strikes. Obviously, Russia is annoyed by our proximity, Ukraine and Britain. So this means that we are really strong in defending freedom in Europe.’
He said since the start of the war, more than 2,000 Russian missile have been launched at Ukraine, and that there have been more than 2,600 reports of Russian fighter jets sighted in the country’s skies.
‘Each of these “arrivals” is the death of our people, the destruction of our infrastructure,’ he said, before describing how the Russian occupation in the east of the country has meant that medical supplies have not been able to reach people.
Cancer patients have not been able to receive treatment, people have not been able to undergo surgeries and diabetics cannot get insulin, he said.
‘These are the consequences of the Russian occupation for a part of our land, for a part of our people, which we must liberate from the invaders,’ he said.
‘And we will definitely do it. In particular, due to your support.’
Pictured: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (left) react during British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s speech to Ukrainian lawmakers via video in parliament in Kyiv, Ukraine, May 3
President Zelensky addressed a charity dinner set up by Britain’s Chatham House think tank on Thursday night, and described the dire situation in his country under Russian invasion
Zelensky went on to say that 500 civilians had been evacuated from the besieged port city of Mariupol, that has been all but razed by Vladimir Putin’s forces.
‘There are many wounded (fighters), but they are not surrendering,’ he said of the fighters who are putting up a last stand in the city’s steel plant.
‘They are holding their positions.’
‘Just imagine this hell! And there are children there,’ he added. ‘More than two months of constant shelling, bombing, constant death.’
Some 2,000 Ukrainian fighters, by Russia’s most recent estimate, are holed up in a vast maze of tunnels and bunkers beneath the Azovstal steelworks and they have repeatedly refused to surrender.
Ukraine said a few hundred civilians were also trapped there and as the battle has ramped up in recent days, fears for their safety have only grown.
There is growing speculation that Putin wants to finish the battle for Mariupol so he can present a triumph to the Russian people in time for Monday’s Victory Day on May 9, the biggest patriotic holiday on the Russian calendar.
The fall of Mariupol would deprive Ukraine of a vital port, allow Russia to establish a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014, and free up troops to fight elsewhere in the Donbas, the eastern industrial region that the Kremlin says is now its chief objective.
Its capture also holds symbolic value since the city has been the scene of some of the worst suffering of the war and a surprisingly fierce resistance.
Zelensky called on the rest of the world to send more help to Ukraine, to aid its people and to help its forces defeat the Russian invaders.
‘Ukraine needs up to $7billion a month to cover the state budget deficit,’ he said.
‘In total, it has been calculated that already more than $600billion is needed to rebuild what the Russian army destroyed. Just imagine this scale. That is why every manifestation of support, every sincere help to Ukraine is important.’
Smoke rises above a plant of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine May 5, 2022
Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Johnson told Ukrainian politicians the UK is ‘proud to be among Ukraine’s friends’ after reopening the British embassy in Kyiv last week.
In his address to the parliament – known as the Verkhovna Rada – the PM echoed the words of Churchill to the British people during the Second World War.
Mr Johnson said: ‘You have exploded the myth of Putin’s invincibility and you have written one of the most glorious chapters in military history and in the life of your country.
‘The so-called irresistible force of Putin’s war machine has broken on the immovable object of Ukrainian patriotism and love of country.
‘This is Ukraine’s finest hour, that will be remembered and recounted for generations to come.’
He added: ‘Your children and grandchildren will say that Ukrainians taught the world that the brute force of an aggressor counts for nothing against the moral force of a people determined to be free.
‘They will say that Ukrainians proved by their tenacity and sacrifice that tanks and guns cannot suppress a nation fighting for its independence, and that is why I believe that Ukraine will win.’
Service members of pro-Russian troops drive armoured vehicles during Ukraine-Russia conflict near Novoazovsk in the Donetsk Region, Ukraine May 6, 2022
While Russian troops pounded away at the steel plant, Russian forces struggled to make significant gains elsewhere, 10 weeks into a devastating war that has killed thousands of people, forced millions to flee the country and flattened large swathes of cities.
The Ukrainian military’s General Staff said on Friday that its forces repelled 11 attacks in the Donbas and destroyed tanks and armoured vehicles, further frustrating Mr Putin’s ambitions after his abortive attempt to seize Kyiv.
Russia gave no immediate acknowledgement of those losses.
Ukrainian chief of defence, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, meanwhile, said on Thursday that a counteroffensive could begin to push Russian forces away from Kharkiv and Izyum – two cities key to the Russian campaign in the Donbas, where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian troops for eight years.
Already, Ukrainian fighters have driven Russian troops some 25 miles east of Kharkiv in recent days.
The goal could be to push the Russians out of artillery range of the city, which has been pummelled by strikes, as well as forcing Moscow to divert troops from other areas of the front line, according to an assessment from the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War on Thursday.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Russian forces are making only ‘plodding’ progress in the Donbas, while the institute said their operations there were ‘ineffectual’ and had not secured any significant territorial gains in the preceding 24 hours.
In fact, the extended stand-off at the plant in Mariupol was helping to hinder Russia’s plans for the Donbas, the British Ministry of Defence said in an assessment on Friday.
The fighting at the plant ‘has come at personnel, equipment and munitions cost to Russia’, it said.
‘Whilst Ukrainian resistance continues in Azovstal, Russian losses will continue to build and frustrate their operational plans in southern Donbas.’
The Ukrainians say Russian troops have stormed the steelworks and are also striking it from the air, but the wife of one commander at the plant said they had vowed to ‘stand till the end’.
‘They won’t surrender,’ Kateryna Prokopenko said on Thursday after speaking by phone to her husband, Denys Prokopenko.