faint praise | 

Volodymyr Zelensky criticises Ireland for 'almost' backing Ukraine's EU membership bid

Ukrainian president had most criticism for Hungary’s Viktor Orban

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky. Picture: Reuters

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has criticised Ireland as he delivered an emotional pitch for his country to be allowed to join the EU last night.

In a roll call of how much he felt each country supported Ukraine’s emergency application to join the EU, he said: “Ireland – well, almost”.

His remotely delivered speech was the third of the day to Western leaders as they gathered in Brussels for an unprecedented day of summits of Nato, G7 and European Council leaders gathered to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

After appealing to Nato leaders for “unlimited” military support, in his speech to European leaders Zelensky got highly personal, making a roll call of countries and their level of support for Ukraine.

Zelensky thanked EU leaders for working together to support Ukraine and impose sanctions on Russia, including Germany’s decision to block Russia from delivering natural gas to Europe through the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

But he criticised them for not taking the steps earlier, saying there was a chance Russia would have had second thoughts about invading.

He then appealed to the EU leaders, gathered on Thursday in Brussels, to move quickly on Ukraine’s application to join the bloc. “Here I ask you, do not delay. Please,” Zelensky said by video from Kyiv. “For us this is a chance.”

He then listed the 27 member countries, noting those he said were “for us.” He appealed to Germany and particularly to Hungary not to block Ukraine’s bid.

“Lithuania - for us. Latvia is for us. Estonia is for us. Poland is for us,” he said.

“France, Emmanuel [Macron], I really believe that you will be for us. Slovenia is for us. Slovakia - for us. The Czech Republic is for us.

"Romania knows what dignity is, so it will stand for us at the crucial moment. Bulgaria stands for us.

"Greece, I believe, stands with us. Germany … a little later. Portugal — well, almost … Croatia stands for us. Sweden - yellow and blue should always stand together. Finland - I know you are with us.

"The Netherlands stands for the rational, so we’ll find common ground. Malta - I believe we will succeed. Denmark - I believe we will succeed.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses MPs in the House of Commons. (House of Commons/PA)

He continued: “Luxembourg - we understand each other. Cyprus - I really believe you are with us. Italy - thank you for your support! Spain - we’ll find common ground.

"Belgium - we will find arguments. Austria, together with Ukrainians, it is an opportunity for you. I’m sure of it. Ireland - well, almost.”

Zelensky is due to address the Oireachtas on April 6.

Last week, Zelensky thanked Taioseach Micheál Martin “for helping the people of Ukraine” in a phone call with the Taoiseach.

In a tweet, Mr Zelensky said he and Mr Martin “discussed countering aggression and horrific crimes of Russia against civilians”.

He also “expressed condolences over the murder of Irish journalist Pierre Zakrzewski by Russian soldiers”.

The Taoiseach said he told Zelensky that the “Irish people stand fully behind Ukraine” and that Zelensky “thanked us for our continued humanitarian aid, shelter, global support and sanctions against Russia”.

The Taoiseach has previously said Ireland would support an accelerated application by Ukraine to join the EU but that the country may not be able to join immediately.

Zelensky laid down a marker for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who has for years nurtured close ties to Russia’s Vladimir Putin. “Hungary … I want to stay here and be honest. Once and for all,” Zelensky said.

“You have to decide for yourself who you are with. You are a sovereign state. I’ve been to Budapest. I adore your city. I have been many times - very beautiful, very hospitable city. And people, too.

"You have had tragic moments in your life. I visited your waterfront. I saw this memorial … Shoes on the Danube Bank,” he said, referring a monument to Hungarian Jews murdered during World War II.

“Listen, Viktor, do you know what’s going on in Mariupol? Please, if you can, go to your waterfront.”

The gathered leaders issued a statement reiterating their previous position on Ukraine’s application and demanded an immediate end to Russia’s aggression.

“The European Council reiterates its invitation to the Commission to submit its opinion in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Treaties,” the leaders stated.

“The European Union will continue to provide coordinated political, financial, material and humanitarian support.”

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