In an unprecedented parliamentary session, the Spanish Courts were dressed this Tuesday with all the solemnity to listen to the Ukrainian president, Volodímir Zelenski: deputies and senators squeezed into the chamber of Congress, the entire Government and the blue and yellow flag of Ukraine presiding the session together with the Spanish and the European. With his already eternal military shirt, Zelensky spoke for 15 minutes through the videoconference transmitted by the screens of the plenary hall. The president was energetic, as usual, and moving at times when recounting the brutalities that his people are suffering under the Russian invasion.
The Ukrainian president appealed to the consciences of the Spanish deputies by evoking an episode of the Civil War very similar to what the cities of his country are now suffering: the destruction of Guernica, now 85 years ago, under the bombs of the German and Italian aviation. “We are in April 2022, but it seems that we are in April 1937, when the world found out about the attack on your city,” he said.
Zelenski, who began by apologizing for being a few minutes late because he had previously had to appear before the UN Security Council, was grateful for Spain’s response to the invasion of his country. But, just as he had done in his interventions before other parliaments, such as the German one, he did not forget to leave a critical note about him. After acknowledging —and thanking him too— that most of the hundred Spanish companies operating in Russia have interrupted their commercial contacts, he wanted to highlight that not all of them have done so. And he had no qualms about giving the names of three: Porcelanosa, the explosives manufacturer Maxam and some members of an association of companies with interests in that country, Sercobe. Porcelanosa published a note shortly after in which it assures that it has already interrupted all that commercial relationship.
“You have to stop doing business with Russia,” Zelensky begged, who included oil purchases in this request. Trade relations, he argued, are a way of collaborating with a regime, that of Vladimir Putin, that “commits crimes against humanity” and should be brought “before the International Criminal Court.” “We have to stop being afraid of Russia. In Europe everyone must stop being afraid and be strong”, he stressed. The former comedian turned overnight into a national and international hero was very clear in his requests: “I ask for weapons and sanctions.” “How can we allow Russian banks to make profits while our cities are being destroyed?” he stated.
Zelensky went to great lengths to underline that the invasion of Ukraine concerns the entire continent, including Spain, because not only is his country’s independence at stake, but also the very idea of Europe and democracy: “Why Russia have you come to our house? (…) They intend to destroy not only our people, not only the foundation of peaceful life, but also the possibility of living without a dictatorship, the possibility of living without state violence, the possibility of being a strong and transparent democracy, the possibility that different religious communities can coexist in peace”.
In total silence, the hemicycle heard from Zelensky’s mouth accounts of the atrocities committed by the invaders and their impact on the local population. One of the most emotional moments was when he recounted: “Mothers in Ukraine write their names and those of close people on the backs of their children in pen so that if their parents are killed, there is a small chance that these children will be saved. ”. It was there that he appealed to the memory of the horror of Gernika: “The same thing is happening now in my country. There are cities of 100,000 inhabitants where people are without water, without food, without medicine… In Mariupol 90% of the buildings have collapsed. There are people who are living in the attics and in the bathrooms.”
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Zelensky denied that right now the possibility of an agreed exit with Putin is in sight. “Russia is not seriously seeking peace,” he stated, to add bitterly. “And the worst thing is that we don’t know how long this war can last.”
Deputies and senators had patiently waited for the 15 minutes that the Ukrainian leader’s intervention began, scheduled for five in the afternoon. When his face appeared on the screen, the hemicycle rose to its feet and greeted him with long applause. Only the two deputies from the CUP, although also standing up and as a sign of respect, avoided joining the applause. Those of EH Bildu did it lukewarmly.
Zelensky was answered by the President of the Government with another brief speech. Pedro Sánchez praised the Ukrainian people as “an example of dignity” for their resistance to the invader despite suffering the effects of a “ruthless war.” He reiterated Spain’s support for Ukraine’s “independence and territorial integrity” and called on Putin to sit down and negotiate a way out of the conflict.
The aggression against Ukraine, the president insisted, is not only “an attack on democracy”, it is an “attack on reason itself”. For this reason, “the hope of Europe is placed in Ukraine”. Sánchez tried to send a message of encouragement to Zelenski and his people. He declared himself convinced that “Putin is not going to achieve his goal” and thus said goodbye to the Ukrainian president: “Count on Spain”.
Zelenski had been welcomed by the president of Congress, Meritxell Batet, with terms similar to those of Sánchez. Batet spoke “on behalf of the Spanish people as a whole” to extol the “courage and determination” of the Ukrainian resistance and proclaim: “Ukraine’s battle for her freedom is our battle.” Batet was even more expressive than Sánchez when referring to the international commotion over the massacres of civilians and, very forcefully, she expressed her desire that “the full weight of international law falls on those responsible.”
If Zelenski’s presence achieved a unanimity that is almost never seen in the Spanish Congress, the solemnity and emotion of the act could not escape the small miseries of national politics. The socialist deputies interrupted Sánchez’s speech several times with applause. The PP doubted whether to join: some did and others did not. In the end, all the popular ones, as well as those from Ciudadanos, joined the PSOE and United We Can in their applause for the president, who was not only for him, but for the message that Spain sent to Zelenski. It was not the case of Vox or other formations such as ERC, PNV or Junts per Catalunya.
read here the complete speech of Volodímir Zelenski this Tuesday in the Cortes.