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Zelensky invokes Churchill: 'We will fight in the forests, the fields'

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LONDON — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky invoked wartime British Prime Minister Winston Churchill as he appealed to the U.K. Parliament to do more for Ukraine in the fight against Russia.

Speaking to the House of Commons in London from his bunker in Kyiv on Tuesday, Zelensky echoed the words of Britain's leader in World War II. “We will not give up, and we will not lose,” he said. “We will fight to the end in the sea, in the air. We will fight for our land, whatever the costs. We will fight in the forests, in the fields, on the shores, in the streets.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gestures, with his hand on his heart, as he addresses a microphone, with the Ukrainian blue and yellow flag in the background.
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine at a press conference in Kyiv on March 3. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP via Getty Images)

The speech drew on one of Churchill’s great speeches from World War II, in which he told Parliament in 1940: “We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans.”

Lawmakers gave Zelensky a rare standing ovation at the beginning and end of his speech.

The Ukrainian president compared his country's struggle to the U.K.’s battle with the Nazis in World War II. “We do not want to lose what we have … our country, Ukraine,” he told MPs. “Just the same way as you once didn’t want to lose your country when Nazis started to fight and you had to fight for Britain.”

Zelensky documented the Russian invasion day by day, listing the major attacks, describing how civilians have been killed and how those who are left have run out of food and water.

Addressing Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Zelensky said he was “very grateful” for the assistance and weapons delivered 13 days into the conflict. However, he asked the British leader to increase sanctions and called again for a no-fly zone over his country.

“Please increase the pressure of sanctions,” he said. “Please make sure our Ukrainian skies are safe.” He has repeatedly pleaded with NATO to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine to stop Kremlin forces from bombing his country.

In a snowy cityscape of buildings destroyed by shelling, a resident with a wool cap walks toward the camera.
A man picks his way between houses destroyed in airstrikes on the Ukrainian city of Bila Tserkva on Tuesday. (Aris Messinis/AFP via Getty Images)

Zelensky said that over 50 children had been killed in the two weeks of fighting. “These are the children who could have lived, but these people have taken them away from us,” he told MPs in an emotional address.

The Ukrainian leader also asked Britain to declare Russia a terrorist state, asking, “Please make sure that you do what needs to be done.”

Zelensky has addressed his country and others around the world regularly since the invasion took place on Feb. 24, in what Russian President Vladimir Putin called a “special military operation.”

Last week, a translator was moved to tears while translating an impassioned speech by the Ukrainian president. “We are fighting just for our land and for our freedom,” the translator said, fighting back tears. In another video, shortly after Russia invaded, Zelensky uploaded a video online, showing him with four other officials on a darkened street in Kyiv. “We are all here,” he said. “Our soldiers are here, the citizens of our country are all here protecting our independence, and we are going to continue to do so. Glory to the defenders of Ukraine.”

What happened this week in Ukraine? Check out this explainer from Yahoo Immersive to find out.

Where are Russian forces attacking Ukraine? Check out this explainer from Yahoo Immersive to find out.