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Politics

Freedom or Death, Zelenskyy Tells Greek Lawmakers Over Russia’s Invasion

ATHENS – Speaking via video to Greece’s Parliament, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appealed for help over Russia’s invasion and to help save “out shared heritage,” with scores of thousands of ethnic Greeks trapped in the besieged city of Mariupol.

He said Ukrainians are saying their own “Freedom or Death” in their fight against the Russian military, quoting the battle cry used by Greeks in the 1821 War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire.

He also mentioned the Filiki Etaireia, an underground organization founded in Odessa that set the foundations for the Greek Revolution and the creation of the modern Greek state.

“The Filiki Etaireia was formed here and this is of great importance. We could create a new Filiki Etaireia to fight, to save Ukraine and the (ethnic) Greek population. Mariupol needs your immediate support,” he said.
Read more: Ukraine Seeks Arms from NATO as Fight Looms on Eastern Front

He told the lawmakers that there’s no escape for the residents of the city, Russia barring any attempts at setting up humanitarian corridors or the Red Cross or other efforts – including Greece – bringing in food and supplies.

He said the city has been almost completely destroyed, and that the Russian military has bombed hospitals, theaters and houses, shells even killing children in playing fields, other reports said earlier.

“The suffering in both the Greek and Ukrainian communities is great from the barbarity against the civilian population,” Zelenskyy said, a previous plea for Greece to send more weapons after initially suppling miltary gear rejected.

He reached out to the Greeks to remember their links with their brethren who are being killed and noted that the lineage goes so far back to ancient times that it’s hard to trace.

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He said it was nearly impossible to trace when Greeks first established themselves around the Black Sea, noting that “peaceful coexistence” was a given and that they’ve thrived for generations – until now.

He thanked Greece for being among the first to support European Union sanctions but said it’s not enough because the country and bloc are still buying Russian energy that’s funding the invasion.

He called on the EU to stop buying Russian energy that brings President Vladimir Putin $800 million a day and for all Russian banks to be barred from the SWIFT system of international transfers after two dealing with energy were exempted.

He also pleaded for more weapons to defend Ukraine against the Russian invasion but Greece said it won’t send anymore after Russian denounced it and Greek defense officials saying they were needed at home.

“The sooner Ukraine receives this help, the more lives we can save in Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said in an address to Greek parliament Thursday.

Zelenskyy emphasized the destruction wrought on the southern port city of Mariupol, home to a sizeable Greek-Ukrainian community, and urged Greece to help prevent the same fate befalling Odesa, another Ukrainian port city with deep ties to Greece.

The Ukrainian president called for sanctions on all Russian banks and a ban on Russian ships from entering ports as a way of hindering Russia’s ability to finance the war.

“Russia is absolutely confident in its invincibility and that they could do whatever they want without going unpunished. We have to stop it. We must bring Russia to justice,” Zelenskyy said.

The major opposition SYRIZA, however, said it was upset that a man claiming to be an ethnic Greek and member of the allegedly far-right extremist Azov Battalion also appeared in the video.

“Today we listened with respect and solidarity to the democratically elected President of Ukraine, Mr. Zelensky, who resists the Russian invasion of Ukraine and to whom we express our support,” said Olga Gerovasili, SYRIZA’s parliamentary group secretary.

But she said that it was “unacceptable” that the man who called himself Michael also talked to the lawmakers and that her party wants explanations why he was allowed to do so, saying that it was “a big mistake.”

“My grandfather fought in World War II against the Nazis. He was injured three times. I was born in Mariupol and I take part in the defense of the city from the Russian Nazis. I will not talk about the difficulties we have in defense, participating in the Ukrainian defense through the Azov Battalion. This is my debt to my city, my debt as a man and I have to talk about the catastrophic conditions in which Greek Mariupol finds itself,” he told Parliament.

Read more: Mitsotakis: Freedom and Democracy Are Our Answer

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Read more: Oikonomou: Message by Azov Battalion Member Was “Mistaken and Ill-Advised”

Read more: KKE Leader Condemns Greece’s Involvement in the Russia-Ukraine War

Read more: “Today We Are All Ukrainians,” Greek President Says after Zelenskyy’s Speech

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