In an address to the Maltese Parliament, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reminded parliamentarians that Ukraine is not in the middle of a conflict, but in a full-blown war.
Ukrainian President Zelensky, who addressed Malta’s parliament today via video link, expressed his gratitude to the Maltese people for inviting him to speak.
At the beginning of his speech, Zelensky took a moment to correct Speaker Anglu Farrugia about his use of the word “conflict” to describe what is happening in Ukraine.
“We do not have a conflict. We have a war going on. We have bombs, shellings, torturing and killings happening. This is now happening between Russia and Ukraine, but on our sovereign territory. It is Russia who came to our territory and is killing us,” Zelenksy said.
Zelensky said that Ukraine is doing all it can to bring peace to its land and protect its people, linking his people’s struggle to that of the Maltese people in the Second World War.
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“The resilience of your people and their resistance in many ways defined the future of the Mediterranean. Malta withstood the severe siege and bombardment and together with the Allies managed to protect itself, and played a role in liberating Europe. Today’s events remind me of your story,” Zelensky said.
“Now the future of Europe is being decided on the battlefield,” Zelensky reminded the parliamentarians.
He urged the Maltese government to cease the “privileges of Russian people, including golden passports and dual citizenship” and to “check which Russians are trying to use Malta’s jurisdiction to hide”.
Zelensky also took the opportunity to speak about sanctions against Russia and the embargo on Russian oil, as well as acknowledge the sensitive link between this topic and Malta.
“The sanctions against Russians are not just a goal in itself but to bring the reality of the loss of revenues from energy resources, which is the most painful for Russia. The aggressor has to be hurting and be damaged as much as possible,” he said.
“I know that for you and other European countries this is a very sensitive topic because the vessels under your flag are used to transport Russian oil. But each euro you earn would be offset by losses from rising food prices and migration pressures caused by war,” Zelensky warned.
Zelensky also reiterated calls for weapons and support needed to defend Ukraine against Russia.
“We are here to make sure freedom will win. I am grateful for the decisions you have made in the protection of Europe and I count on your support. Thank you Malta and glory to Ukraine,” Zelensky concluded.
After Zelensky’s speech, Prime Minister Robert Abela and Opposition Leader Bernard Grech also addressed the parliament. Their speeches, however, were more self-applauding and self-excusing, rather than facing the issues at hand.
Abela expressed his thanks to Zelensky for his first-hand account of the war and extended “thoughts and prayers”.
“Although we are bound by the constitutional amendment on neutrality, this does not mean we are blind to your suffering. We will continue calling for peace,” Abela said.
Abela also mentioned that Malta has frozen applications from Belarussian and Russian passport buyers and revoked the citizenship of an individual from Russia who was impacted by sanctions.
Abela’s previous administration, however, had been reluctant to stop selling passports to Russians, saying that some of them are “anti-Putin”. Malta seemingly only stopped selling passports to such nationals following external pressure from the European Union.
Whilst Malta has condemned the illegal invasion of Ukraine by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s troops and has backed EU sanctions against Russia, including passport sales to Russian citizens, it is seeking compromise on the EU’s proposal to ban the transportation of Russian oil on EU-flagged or controlled ships.
The proposal is part of the EU’s plans to gradually reduce and end reliance on Russian energy sources. According to the Times of Malta, sources said that the ban could have a massive impact on the shipping industry. Some of the EU’s biggest ship registers are found in Malta and its operators would likely be affected if they were unable to reach certain ports.
Abela closed his speech by reassuring Zelenksy that “Malta stands with Ukraine”.
Opposition leader Bernard Grech reminded people that “this war does not only concern Ukraine, but the entire free world”.
Much like Abela, Grech said that Malta will not be providing weapons to Ukraine, in order to remain in line with the constitutional amendment on neutrality, but that “we have a heart which reaches out to you”.
He then took the opportunity to express the PN’s pride in the fact that EP President Roberta Metsola, a member of the party, was the first high-ranking European official to visit Kyiv since the beginning of the war.
“My party are ready to promote and defend your aspirations to join the EU,” Grech promised Zelensky. He then related such aspiration to Malta’s own prior to its accession to the EU.
Since the beginning of the war on 24th February, Zelensky has addressed several national parliaments around Europe, as well as having addressed the European Parliament at the beginning of March.
What did you make of the address and reactions?