LISBON: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Thursday his war-ravaged country needed more heavy weapons to defend itself from Russia’s invasion that threatened Ukraine’s very survival, and he asked Western nations to impose further sanctions.
Zelenskiy told Portugal’s parliament in a video address that the Portuguese, who next week celebrate 48 years since an almost bloodless revolution ended decades of fascist dictatorship, knew all too well what it meant to fight for democracy.
“In 57 days of war, more than 1,000 Ukrainian towns were occupied by invaders who continue to destroy our cities,” he said. “Millions of people had to flee … it is as if the whole of Portugal was forced to leave.”
He said the Russian army had committed atrocities, including in the port city of Mariupol, which has faced heavy bombardment.
“We are fighting not only for our independence, but for our survival, for our people so that they do not get killed, tortured and raped,” Zelenskiy said. “The Russians have already kidnapped more than 500,000 people … who were deported to the most distant regions of Russia, in remote camps.”
Moscow, which describes its actions in Ukraine as a “special military operation”, denies targeting civilians and rejects what Ukraine says is evidence of atrocities, saying Kyiv has staged them to undermine peace talks.
The Ukrainian president asked Portugal to support a global embargo on Russian oil and to back Kyiv’s desire to join the European Union.
Shortly after Zelenskiy’s speech, Portuguese parliament president Augusto Santos Silva said: “Your country’s fight for freedom is Europe’s fight for freedom.”
European Council President Charles Michel said on Wednesday the EU would look for more ways to respond to Russia’s invasion.