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Europe is Ukraine’s ‘home,’ Zelensky tells EU lawmakers in emotional address

<i>Mohammed Badra/Reuters</i><br/>Macron and Zelensky at the Velizy-Villacoublay airport southwest of Paris on Thursday morning.
Mohammed Badra/Reuters
Macron and Zelensky at the Velizy-Villacoublay airport southwest of Paris on Thursday morning.

By Sophie Tanno, Radina Gigova, Jack Guy and Nic Robertson, CNN

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made a heartfelt appeal to lawmakers in Brussels on Thursday to allow his country to become part of the European Union, insisting that Europe is Ukraine’s “home.”

During an address to the European Parliament, Zelensky said his country and the EU share the same values, and that the “European standard of life” and the “European rules of life” are “when the law rules.”

“This is our Europe, these are our rules, this is our way of life. And for Ukraine, it’s a way home, a way to its home,” Zelensky said, referencing Ukraine’s aim to join the European Union.

“I am here in order to defend our people’s way home,” he added.

Zelensky’s emotional message was designed to try to connect with EU parliamentarians as he continues to push for Ukraine to join the bloc.

He underlined that Ukraine shares values with Europe, rather than with Russia, which he said is trying to take his country back in time.

The president warned European lawmakers that Russia wants to return Europe to the xenophobia of the 1930s and 1940s. “The answer for us to that is no,” he said. “We are defending ourselves. We must defend ourselves.”

Zelensky thanked all the countries that have provided weapons and military assistance to Ukraine, while stressing that his country still needs modern tanks, long-range missiles and modern fighter jets to protect its security, which he said is also Europe’s security.

“We need artillery guns, ammunitions, modern tanks, the long-range missiles and modern fighter jets,” Zelensky said. “We have to enhance the dynamic of our cooperation” and act “faster than the aggressor,” he added.

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola introduced Zelensky ahead of his address, telling him: “Ukraine is Europe and your nation’s future is in the European Union.

“We have your back. Freedom will prevail.”

Zelensky also said Thursday he would have several bilateral meetings in Brussels to discuss the issue of providing fighter jets to Ukraine and that the discussions he has had so far in the Belgian capital have been “very concrete, very precise.”

“I am very inspired by your statements that Europe will be with us until our victory. I have heard it from a number of European leaders and I am very grateful to them for this,” Zelensky said during a press conference following the European Council meeting.

“I’ve heard about the readiness to give us the necessary weapons and support, including the aircrafts. And I’ll have a number of bilaterals now and we are doing to raise the issue of the fighter jets and other aircrafts,” he said. “So we are working and will continue working in Brussels.”

Confident but coy

During his trip to Brussels, Zelensky was expected to renew his pleas to European leaders to provide Ukraine with Typhoon and F-16 fighter jets.

When there, Zelensky seemed confident, yet coy about getting the jet fighters he wants, “there are certain agreements, which are not public, but are positive” he said during a press conference.

The Ukrainian leader has a proven track record persuading allies to give him what he wants, hinting at success in the United Kingdom, “I think that our visit to London has achieved results.”

The UK was the first to commit its tanks to Ukraine, and it appears Zelensky has their help pushing forward conversations about fighter jets too, “we have moved towards solutions concerning the long range missiles and the training of our pilots. Yes, indeed, that is an important road to getting the fighter jets would we need”.

His meeting in Paris with the German Chancellor and French President also appears to have extended that conversation. “I see this meeting as a positive one and talking about concrete decisions. Indeed, I would not want to announce many things publicly, but all I can say is that we will working towards the enhancement of our capabilities.”

But despite Zelensky’s optimism, behind closed doors he is likely being warned that without a fully functioning air defense system, NATO’s expensive fighter jets could be easy prey for the Russians, and that any fighter jet commitment needs to be sequenced with better air defense.

His plea in Brussels was an emotive one, with so many Ukrainians dying, “I haven’t got the right. I simply haven’t got the right to come back home without the results.”

Surprise London visit

Zelensky’s trip to Brussels on Thursday came a day after he made a surprise visit to London and Paris as part of an unannounced diplomatic tour of European capitals aimed at persuading the West to send more weapons and military support to counter an expected Russian spring offensive.

His renewed appeal to join the EU comes after Ukraine officially became an EU candidate state last year. It is still likely to be years before Kyiv can start any accession talks to join the bloc.

On Wednesday evening, the Ukrainian leader was hosted in Paris by French President Emmanuel Macron alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Macron awarded the visiting Ukrainian president with France’s highest order of merit, the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor.

Earlier, Macron told Zelensky that France is “determined” to assist Ukraine in its war against Russia. “We stand by Ukraine, determined to help it to victory,” Macron said. “Ukraine can count on France and its allies to win the war, Russia should not and will not win the war.”

European leaders have been clear in their support for defending Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression, with several countries including Germany, Poland and the Netherlands recently giving the green light to provide Kyiv with heavy battle tanks.

Scholz last June insisted that Ukraine “belongs to the European family.”

“My colleagues and I have come here to Kyiv today with a clear message: Ukraine belongs to the European family,” Scholz said during a joint news conference in Kyiv with Zelensky.

Earlier Wednesday, Zelensky addressed the UK parliament during a surprise visit to London, thanking Britain on behalf of his country’s “war heroes.”

Zelensky expressed gratitude to British parliamentarians for supporting Ukraine during his speech in Westminster Hall. “Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for your bravery,” he said. “Thank you very much. From all of us.

“London has stood with Kyiv since day one,” he told lawmakers. “Since the first seconds and minutes of the full-scale war. Great Britain, you extended your helping hand when the world had not yet come to understand how to react.

He added: “We know Russia will lose. We know victory will change the world, and this will be a change the world needed. The United Kingdom is marching with us towards the most important victory of our lifetime. The victory over the very idea of war.

“After we win, any aggressor, it doesn’t matter, big or small, will know what awaits him if he attacks international order.”

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Mick Krever, Yulia Kesaieva and Lauren Kent contributed reporting.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - Europe/Mideast/Africa

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