In an address to the Czech Parliament, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky asked for his nation to be granted EU candidate status as well as a seventh EU package of sanctions against Russia. During the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, he regularly reiterated the iconic words “we are with you, be with us.” The need for additional European funding comes just weeks before Czechia takes up the presidency of the EU Council.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky opted to paraphrase the iconic sentence “we are with you, be with us” twice in his address to both chambers of the Czech Parliament, remarks made by one of the presenters on Czechoslovak Radio during the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact invasion in August 1968.
Thanking the Czech Republic for its “generous” support of Ukraine thus far, both in terms of aid and in taking in hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the conflict, Zelensky said that Russia’s aggression will not stop with Ukraine. He said that a defeat of his country would only lead to the Kremlin’s influence spreading across the whole region of Central and Eastern Europe.
“The ‘fateful eights’, as they are known in Czech history, 1938, 1948, and 1968 serve as a reminder to everyone who would still want to make peace with this aggressor at the detriment of preserving European values and weakening Europe itself.”
President Zelensky, speaking just weeks before the Czech Republic’s next six-month presidency of the European Council, asked Prague for help in convincing EU leaders to agree to the seventh package of sanctions against Russia. He also requested assistance in obtaining EU candidate status for Ukraine.
“Russia’s chief ideological weapon, namely the assertion that Europe is unable to unite, needs to be knocked out of its hands. Granting Ukraine EU candidate status would prove that the European community is real and that its values do work and are not just empty words in a few documents.”
Ukraine’s leader also spoke in connection to the Czech Republic’s plans to play an active role in ensuring that the EU helps rebuild Ukraine after the war.
“I believe that the Czech Republic will be one of the leaders in contributing to the economic and infrastructural rebuilding of Ukraine. It will also be a good opportunity for Europe to show its technological, institutional, and creative strength. Furthermore, we need to ensure that Ukraine’s national recovery plan and Europe’s recovery plan are fully synchronized. I also ask you to take part in rebuilding Ukraine on a national level as well, for example by assuming patronage over one of the regions or cities that have been impacted by Russia’s aggression.”
President Zelensky’s speech was preceded by speeches from the speakers of both chambers of the Czech Parliament, as well as Prime Minister Petr Fiala, who stated that Russia has been systematically undermining Ukraine for years and that the Kremlin’s invasion of the country has already claimed the lives of two Czechs (an independent aid worker and a volunteer in Ukraine’s armed forces).
Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, the Czech Republic has been a significant supplier of military and humanitarian help in relation to its size. This assistance has come not only from the state but also from the general population, whose donations have broken prior records.
Close to 400,000 Ukrainian refugees have received support in Czechia since the conflict started, according to the country’s Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský.