Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said although Ireland is a neutral country, it has "not remained neutral to the disaster and to the mishaps that Russia has brought to Ukraine" in an address to a joint sitting of the Houses of the Oireachtas on Wednesday morning.
Speaking via video link, Mr Zelenskiy thanked Ireland for the humanitarian and financial support it has provided to his country.
Mr Zelenskiy also called on Ireland to show "more leadership in our anti-war coalition" and convince European Union partners to introduce more rigid sanctions against Russia "that would really make sure that the Russian war machine will stop".
TDs, Senators and foreign diplomats gathered in the Dáil chamber, including Ukraine’s ambassador to Ireland Larysa Gerasko, to hear Mr Zelenskiy’s address and gave him a standing round of applause after he spoke.
Mr Zelenskiy is the 22nd person to address a joint sitting of the Houses of Oireachtas since the first Dáil was established.
Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl introduced the Ukrainian president to the Oireachtas, who spoke via a translator.
Mr Zelenskiy said since the very first days of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Ireland had supported Ukraine despite being a neutral country.
“I’m grateful to you, to every citizen of Ireland, thank you for supporting sanctions against Russia. Thank you for the humanitarian and financial support extended to our country and thank you for your caring about Ukrainian people who found shelter on your land.”
Mr Zelenskiy said 10 million Ukrainians had been left without shelter as of Wednesday and this was “something we can not come to grips with, but it means that Russia hasn’t yet abandoned their plans”.
“They [are] still looking forward to subdue and occupy all of the Ukrainian people. We want to do our best to make sure that Russia will start looking for peace and leave us alone,” he said.
Mr Zelenskiy said there must be an end to trading with Russia and he could not tolerate “any indecisiveness” after everything Ukraine had gone through.
“Today, when the whole world knows about the crimes against our people, [we] will still have to convince even some of the European countries to abandon the Russian market, we still have to convince foreign politicians that we need to cut any ties of Russian banks with the global financial system,” he said.
“We still have to convince Europe that Russian oil cannot feed Russian military machinery with new sources of funding.”
Mr Zelenskiy said a principled approach of some political and business leaders, who still thought that “war and war crimes is not something as horrific as financial losses”, was lacking.
“I am sure that your leadership can make a difference and change this,” he added. “I’m sure that the whole of Europe will be able to stop this war and bring peace and stability in the east of Europe.
“We cannot delay any longer, the longer this aggression of Russia will continue, the worse will be the consequences, not only for our continent but neighbouring regions.”
Mr Zelenskiy outlined some of the losses and damage Ukraine has suffered since the Russian invasion began on February 24th.
He said 42 days since the war began, at least 167 children have been killed, 927 educational institutions damaged, as well as 258 hospitals, and 78 ambulances have been shot at.
“They were targeting even churches and shelters that they knew for sure that there was nobody but women and children [there], and this is a fact,” he added.
Mr Zelenskiy said Russia was targeting sea ports and vessels and they were using hunger “as a weapon” against “ordinary people . . . as an instrument of domination”.
He said there would be a food shortage and prices would go up, adding that in the city of Mariupol, Russia was blocking humanitarian access to half a million people.
“They’re not allowing anything to come through, neither water nor medication,” he said. “While it was snowing, people could melt the snow to get water, now they don’t even have that. They are bombing 24/7 . . . there is no single house left intact in a half a million city, none.
“The dead and killed were simply buried in the yards of the condominiums and in many cases they couldn’t even do that, the bodies were just left there lying on the streets in the remnants of the buildings, in the basements, and we don’t know how many citizens of Mariupol have been killed by Russia.”
‘Ukraine will prevail’
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said Ireland was “resolute” in its solidarity and support for Ukraine and thanked Mr Zelenskiy for his “heartfelt, honest, clear and historic address” to the Houses of Oireachtas.
Mr Martin said Russia would have to live with “the shame and ignominy of what they have done in Ukraine for generations”.
“Those responsible will be held to account,” he said. “We are with Ukraine and I am certain that in the end, Ukraine will prevail.
“We are a military-neutral country. However, we are not politically or morally neutral in the face of war crimes, quite the opposite.”
Mr Martin said Ireland’s position was informed by “the principles that drive our foreign policy; support for international human rights, for humanitarian law and for a rules-based international order”.
“We are not neutral when Russia disregards all of these principles,” he said.
The Russian ambassador to Ireland Yury Filatov did not accept an invitation to the event after Mr Ó Fearghaíl invited all of the diplomatic representations based in the State to the address.