Zelensky urges Germany to tear down new Russian 'Wall' in Europe

AFP , Thursday 17 Mar 2022

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on Germany to help destroy a new "Wall" Russia was erecting in Europe, speaking in an emotional video address to parliament Thursday.

Zelenskyy, Scholz
Members of the German government, among them German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (bottom C) applaud as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appears on a screen to address via videolink the German lower house of parliament Bundestag, on March 17, 2022 in Berlin. AFP

"It's not a Berlin Wall -- it is a Wall in central Europe between freedom and bondage and this Wall is growing bigger with every bomb" dropped on Ukraine, Zelensky told MPs.

Appearing on a screen in his now trademark khaki T-shirt with dark circles under his eyes, Zelensky was welcomed by MPs in the Bundestag lower house with a standing ovation.

In a speech steeped in historical imagery from Germany's triumph over its Cold War division, Zelensky addressed Chancellor Olaf Scholz directly with a call for greater solidarity with Ukraine.

"Dear Mr Scholz, tear down this Wall," he implored, evoking US President Ronald Reagan's 1987 appeal to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate.

"Give Germany the leadership role that you in Germany deserve."

'Economy, economy, economy'

Zelensky coupled his flattery with a strong rebuke of Berlin's years-long reluctance to stand up to Moscow and sever its strong energy and business ties with Russia.

"We turned to you," he said. "We told you that Nord Stream (gas pipelines) was a kind of preparation for the war.

"And the answer we got was purely economic -- it is economy, economy, economy, but that was the mortar for the new Wall."

The Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24 prompted an overhaul of key planks of Germany's energy, economic and security policy -- some of them dating back to the end of World War II.

It has put the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project on ice, joined allies in imposing punishing sanctions on Russia and pledged a massive increase in defence spending while dropping a ban on arms exports to conflict zones in order to aid Ukraine.

Germany has also said it aims to be nearly free of Russian oil imports by the end of this year although it still remains heavily dependent on Russian gas.

However, Berlin has resisted an outright halt to Russian energy imports, warning it would cause winter shortages and drive inflation, creating potential instability in Europe's top economy.

Zelensky stressed that the future of the continent was at stake in the current war and argued that governments across the West were failing to meet the moment.

"Every year politicians repeat 'never again'," the Ukrainian leader said, referring to annual Holocaust commemorations.

"And now, we see that these words simply mean nothing. A people is being destroyed in Europe," he said, noting that 108 children had been killed in his country since the start of the Russian offensive.

"Help us stop this war."

Despite his blunt criticism, MPs gave Zelensky another standing ovation after his 15-minute address and Scholz, in a tweet, thanked him for his "forceful words".

"We see that Russia is continuing every day to wage its cruel war, with horrible losses," he said.

"We feel obliged to do everything we can so that diplomacy has a chance and the war can be stopped."

Short link: