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Zelenskyy gets standing ovation after speech to European Parliament: 'Nobody is going to break us'

The speech came hours after the Ukrainian president submitted an application to the European Union to grant Ukraine immediate membership into the bloc.

An impassioned speech by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy highlighting his country’s determination and worth received a standing ovation from the European Parliament and choked up a translator.

"Our people are very much motivated, very much so, we are fighting for our rights, for our freedoms, for our life," Zelenskyy said. "And now we are fighting for survival, and this is the highest of our motivation." 

"But we are fighting also to be equal members of Europe. I believe that today we are showing everybody that’s exactly what we are. The European Union is going to be much stronger with us — that’s for sure."

The speech came hours after Zelenskyy submitted an application to the European Union to grant Ukraine immediate membership into the bloc.

The E.U. on Sunday announced new measures designed to bolster Ukraine in its fight against Russia, while imposing bans on Russian aircraft and state-owned media outlets.

But an E.U. spokeswoman said Tuesday that joining "is a complex and quite lengthy process which usually takes years."

"As of today we neither accepted Ukraine’s application to join the E.U. nor do we have any special admission process underway," she said.

The European Parliament was nonetheless moved by Zelenskyy's words, standing and applauding for nearly a full minute after he concluded his remarks.

Image:
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen applauds after an address by Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, via video link, during an extraordinary session on Ukraine at the European Parliament in Brussels on March 1, 2022.Virginia Mayo / AP

"We’re dealing with reality, we’re dealing with killed people, real life you know," he said.

He detailed Russia's bombings on Kharkiv earlier in the morning.

He said the city houses more than 20 universities. Students and residents of Kharkiv often gather in Ukraine's largest square — Freedom Square — for celebrations, he said.

"Can you imagine, this morning two cruise missiles hit this freedom square, dozens of killed ones," Zelenskyy lamented. "This is the price of freedom."

A translator was overcome with emotion during this point of the speech. His voice cracked repeatedly, and he took a deep breath in before gathering himself.

"Believe you me," Zelenskyy continued. "Every square of today, no matter what it’s called, is going to be called 'freedom square' in every city of our country. Nobody is going to break us. We are strong. We are Ukrainians."

Zelenskyy asked Europe to stand with Ukraine.

"We have proven our strength; we have proven that as at a minimum we are exactly the same as you are," he said. "So do prove that you are with us, do prove that you won’t let us go ... and then life will win over death and light will win over darkness."