Tag Archives: Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Lib Dems react to Zelensky speech

This was not the day MPs and peers expected when they got up this morning.

Interspersed with the usual Wednesday merry-go-round of PMQs and associated media came a surprise visit from Ukraine’s leader, Volodymyr Zelensky to address both Houses of Parliament in the historic Westminster Hall. His leadership and the determination of his people has impressed anyone who cares about democracy, human rights and freedom. He has made a robust case for international help and has constantly pushed western powers for more. He has had to support too many of his people through brutal atrocities and the destruction of their way of life.

The presence of a leader who has spent almost a year fighting off the Russian onslaught, against all the odds, certainly made at least the weekly clash between the Prime Minister and Keir Starmer a bit more civilised.

As MPs gathered in Westminster Hall to hear Zelensky’s address, that new grown up spirit wasn’t always in evidence, though. Never one to miss the opportunity for fun, Alistair Carmichael did bunny ears behind Munira as he took a selfie.

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Observations of an expat: Ukraine tanks conundrum

Supplying tanks to Ukraine is not as simple a matter as it may appear at first glance.

It is an issue that is interwoven with competing and overlapping problems of military strategy, political pitfalls, German guilt, Russian nationalism and expansionist ambitions, Ukrainian self-determination, nuclear blackmail, the long-term prospects for peace in Eastern Europe and the age-old battle of good versus evil.

The solution to send perhaps a total of 200 tanks from various NATO countries to Zelensky’s army is insufficient to satisfy the Ukrainians and more than enough to fuel the Russian propaganda machine.

Ukraine is flat tank country. Ukraine wants NATO tanks – especially the German Leopards – to launch a counter-offensive to regain territory.

NATO initially rushed to Ukraine’s aid with defensive equipment; primarily anti-tank and anti-missile weaponry to stop the massive Russian tank attack from Belarus and to blunt Russian artillery barrages.

It worked. In fact, better than expected. So much so that Volodomyr Zelensky appears determined to build on his success to drive the Russians out of all the territory which Ukraine has lost since 2014 (and Russia has annexed) including Crimea.

This would seem quite reasonable as international law is quite-rightly wedded to the principle of self-determination and in 1994 Russia guaranteed Ukraine’s pre-2014 borders and its territorial integrity in return for Ukraine relinquishing its nuclear weapons and signing the nuclear non- proliferation treaty.

But Eastern Ukraine is predominantly Russian-speaking. The majority of its inhabitants have traditionally looked east to Moscow. As for Crimea, it has been Russian since 1783 and one of Moscow’s most important naval centres.

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Observations of an expat: crunch meeting

Next Thursday and probably Friday and possibly the weekend – will be one of the most important dates in world history. NATO and EU leaders meeting in Brussels will decide – or not to decide – what to do in Ukraine.

Ukraine will then decide whether to continue fighting and how. Ditto Vladimir Putin.

Australia, Japan and South Korea’s foreign and defence policies will be dramatically affected. China may come off its rickety fence. India and the OPEC countries will have to make big decisions under heavy pressure from both sides of the warring coin.

International markets – stock markets, commodity markets, oil and gas markets—will either plunge or soar at the news from Brussels.

The world will wait to hear whether we have moved a giant step closer to nuclear Armageddon or inched away from it.

The variations are endless and each has known and unknown consequences. With the threat of nuclear war hanging over every decision, the room for error is nil.

If Vladimir Putin did not possess the world’s largest nuclear arsenal then the answer would be relatively easy: Attack and drive the Russians out. But he does, and he has threatened to use them. The question then arises: Is Putin Bluffing?

More to the point, can the Western Alliance afford to risk the possibility that he is not bluffing?

If he is not bluffing then there is an accepted three-stage nuclear escalation with a pause after the first two to give either side an opportunity to back off: battlefield nuclear weapons which would probably be confined to Ukraine; Intermediate-range nuclear weapons which would be confined to European targets and, then of course, strategic systems which would involve hitting the US.

Putin, however, refuses to play by the rules. He may go straight for American targets, which is why Joe Biden will block anything that could lead to a nuclear exchange.

So the option of committing NATO troops to Ukraine is off the table because Putin has threatened to respond with the nuclear option. That is, it is off the table for now.

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Ed Davey calls for an honorary knighthood for President Zelenskyy

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Volodymyr Zelenskyy was given the unprecedented opportunity to address a packed Commons yesterday by video link. You can see his speech here if you missed it.

His speech echoed Churchill’s oratory:

We will fight at sea, we will fight in the air, we will protect our land. We will fight everywhere… and we will not surrender.

He received a standing ovation, which again is very rare in Westminster.

That appearance fully justifies Ed Davey’s call to award him an honorary knighthood. Ed said:

At this dark moment, we must be offering President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people not just our support but our recognition too.

For decades, many heroes of liberal democracy from across the globe have been rewarded with an honorary knighthood here in the UK. President Zelenskyy should follow in the footsteps of individuals like Nelson Mandela, and be awarded this honour.

I hope the UK Government will get behind the Liberal Democrats’ call to give President Zelenskyy an honorary knighthood. It is the very least we can do, as we step up our offer of support to the people who elected him.

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Zelenskyy’s party is welcomed by ALDE

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We have all found a new hero over the last week: Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine.

I must admit that I knew very little about him, or indeed the history of Ukraine, until this week, but his story is a fascinating one. Zelenskyy worked as an actor and comedian, and he voiced Paddington Bear in the Ukrainian-dubbed version of the film.

He formed a production company Kvartal 95 which launched a popular comedy TV series called “Servant of the People”. In the series he plays a teacher who is unexpectedly elected as the President of Ukraine. Watch a prescient subtitled episode here. (You couldn’t make it up …)

Ukraine has dozens of active political parties, so its Governments are always multi-party coalitions. In 2018 a new political party was registered; it grew from the Party of Decisive Change and was named Servant of the People (sometimes romanized as Sluha Narodu), after the show. Indeed, its first leader was the CEO of Zelenskyy’s production company Kvartal 95.

Then came the Presidential election in 2019. In the final run-off Zelenskyy, standing for Servant of the People, beat the incumbent with over 70% of the vote. He immediately called a general election and the party was successful in winning a substantial number – 254 – parliamentary seats. This was followed by the 2020 local elections when Servant of the People won more seats than any other party.

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