Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the Luxembourg Parliament; Credit: Chamber of Deputies

On Thursday morning, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the Chamber of Deputies (Luxembourg Parliament) via video conference during a public session.

Chamber President Fernand Etgen opened this session by welcoming the Ukrainian President for the first time (albeit virtually) to Luxembourg's parliament. He also acknowledged the presence of Ukraine's First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Emine Dzhaparova, who is undertaking an official visit to the Grand Duchy on Thursday 2 and Friday 3 June 2022. 

In his introductory speech, Mr Etgen called on Russia to conform to international humanitarian law and to stop its illegal war of aggression against Ukraine. He told President Zelensky that in the context of the war waged by Russia against Ukraine: "Know that we suffer with you". He also stressed the importance of strengthening Luxembourg's cooperation with Ukraine and helping the latter on its journey to becoming a member of the European Union (EU). 

For his part, President Zelensky thanked the Luxembourg State and its people for their continued support and said that he was honoured to be able to address the Chamber of Deputies today. He highlighted the relevance of Luxembourg's national motto "Mir wëlle bleiwe wat mir sinn" (We want to stay what we are), noting that Ukrainians were currently fighting to stay who they are: "free, independent and open, and allied with all Europeans". The Ukrainian President noted that the current fighting (i.e. since Russia's invasion on 24 February 2022) is nearing the 100-day mark (on Friday 3 June 2022), although in reality, Russia started its war against Ukraine in 2014 with the annexation of Crimea. "For eight years, hostilities have endured", he said. During this period, Ukraine has lost 14,000 soldiers and 43,000 km2 of its territory, he added, comparing this to the size of the Netherlands (approximately 41,800 km2). President Zelensky added that there are currently about twelve million internally displaced people in Ukraine, as well as several million more Ukrainian refugees abroad. He noted that Russia has lost some 30,000 soldiers since 24 February 2022 - more than the Soviet Union lost during ten years in Afghanistan - "but Russia does not stop".

The Ukrainian President called on the global community to continue to help his country in terms of defence and to "drive out the invader" and thus to "defend our liberty and our common values". He expressed his gratitude for the support received to date and particularly thanked Luxembourg for its solidarity and active support. He added, however, that "to stop the machine of war, we need everyone to react". He compared the current situation to Nazism during the Second World War and stressed the importance of everyone being "united against this threat, against this aggression". Above all, he emphasised the need for more weapons for Ukraine, particularly modern weapons "to ensure [their] advantage in terms of arms and technology". Further sanctions are also needed and he called for preparation to begin already on a seventh package of EU sanctions.

President Zelensky described the war in Ukraine as a "big test" for Europe which will prove whether it is "capable of defending its values". He described Ukraine's path to becoming a new EU Member State as a "big and beautiful project for our generation". He added that this war is "decisive" for Europe, as it will decide "the fate of our common values, of European values".

The Ukrainian President went on to invite both Fernand Etgen and Xavier Bettel to Ukraine and once more expressed his gratitude to Luxembourg for its solidarity. He concluded: "Slava Ukraini!" (Glory to Ukraine!). His speech received a standing ovation in the Chamber of Deputies.

Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel then took the floor. He began by sparing a thought for the victims of this war, before praising "the manner and the energy with which you [President Zelensky] and the Ukrainian population have refused a destiny that a bigger neighbour is trying to impose on you". He noted that Luxembourg had experienced a similar situation in the past, i.e. the German invasion of Luxembourg in both the First and Second World Wars. The Prime Minister also praised the "will, strength and resilience of the Ukrainian people" and reiterated Luxembourg's solidarity with Ukraine. He confirmed that the Grand Duchy would continue to support Ukraine against Russian aggression, whether financially or in terms of humanitarian aid. Mentioning the some 5,000 Ukrainian refugees having sought refuge in Luxembourg, he said that he was "proud to be the Prime Minister of a country where private [support] initiatives are limitless". He also thanked those working in the education sector in the Grand Duchy who have helped ensure that Ukrainian children are not deprived of the right to go to school.

Regarding sanctions, Prime Minister Bettel recognised President Zelensky's "passion" and his desire to accelerate the adoption of new sanctions, but he emphasised the challenges associated with 27 countries having to agree. Referring to Hungary, he described the attempt of one country to block such measures as "unacceptable". He stressed the importance of these sanctions and reiterated that "peace has a price, for us all". That being said, he highlighted the fact that these sanctions may cost countries money, but that Ukraine is "losing children, civilians and soldiers every day". Prime Minister Bettel added that Luxembourg and the EU were ready to help rebuild "the Ukraine of tomorrow" and stressed the need to support the country's rapid entry into the EU. He added that it would be "a fundamental error to ignore Moldavia and Georgiain future discussions.

Mr Bettel recognised that Russia was trying to "stifle Ukraine at all levels", from the national economic level to provoking a global food crisis - the latter would be the fault of Russian aggression alone, he added. The Prime Minister also appealed to President Zelensky to share his message with African and Latin American parlaiaments to put an end to the emerging Russian narrative of blaming the EU for such problems. He reiterated the importance of a meeting between the Ukrainian and Russian Presidents as the "only solution" to this war, and recalled that he remains at Mr Zelensky's disposal. He concluded: "We have supported Ukraine, we support Ukraine and we will continue to support Ukraine. Slava Ukraini".

Fernand Etgen concluded the public session, stressing that "we cannot remain indifferent" to the war in Ukraine. Like the Prime Minister, he highlighted the suffering but also the bravery of the Ukrainian people. On behalf of the Chamber, he expressed its solidarity with and support for Ukraine, agreeing that Luxembourg will continue to support Ukraine. The Chamber President invited the audience to pay homage to the Ukrainian people and concluded with the phrase: "Slava Ukraini".

There was a fifteen-minute break, followed by a debate in the Chamber of Deputies.

Members of the public could watch this session online via Chamber TV (live stream). Dozens of people carrying Ukrainian flags could be seen outside the Chamber of Deputies in the morning.