ATHENS (Reuters) – Ukraine’s president urged Europe to take a stronger stand against Russia in a video address to Greece’s parliament on Thursday that invoked the battle cry of 19th century Greek patriots in the Black Sea port of Odesa.
Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Mariupol, another port on Ukraine’s coast where thousands of ethic Greeks live, had been “reduced to ashes” since Russia’s invasion, and called for more humanitarian aid and efforts to evacuate those wounded.
“This is a matter of honour for Europeans to answer,” he said through an interpreter, in a speech that won him a standing ovation in the Athens parliament.
The six-week-old war has forced more than 4 million people to flee Ukraine, destroyed cities and prompted a slew of Western restrictions on Russian elites and the economy.
Russia has denied targeting civilians and said Ukraine and its Western backers are gripped by discriminatory anti-Russian paranoia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin sent his troops into Ukraine on what he calls a “special military operation” to demilitarise and “denazify” the country. Ukraine and the West say Putin launched an unprovoked war of aggression.
On Thursday, Zelenskiy said Moscow was deliberately trying to ensure that Europeans were left without affordable energy, to provoke inflation and to artificially create a food supply crisis.
“No Russian bank has the right to earn money in the financial system,” Zelenskiy said.
“They need to be blocked – all of them must be blocked, not only some of them – while this senseless, brutal war goes on – and no Russian ship should have the possibility of entering any port in the democratic world,” he added.
“Freedom or Death,” he said during the address, citing the battle cry of the Greek revolutionary society “Filiki Eteria”, which was founded by merchants in Odesa in 1814 to free Greece from its Ottoman rulers.
“I call on you now openly to create such a union of friends which will be able to save Ukrainians and Greeks in the south of Ukraine,” he added, in a reference to Mariupol.
Greece will ask the International Criminal Court to investigate alleged war crimes in Mariupol, its foreign minister said on Thursday.
(The story is refiled to fix typo in headline)
(Reporting by Renee Maltezou, Angeliki Koutantou, Karolina Tagaris; Writing by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Andrew Heavens)