Ukraine war: Let us rapidly join EU, says Ukrainian president Zelenskyy

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By Aleksandar Brezar  with AP
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks to the nation
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks to the nation   -  Copyright  AP/Ukrainian Presidential Press Office

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pushed for Ukraine's urgent ascension to the European Union and Russia to be cut from the SWIFT international electronic bank payment system amid the ongoing invasion.

"Residential buildings destroyed by missiles and artillery are the final argument for the world to stop this occupational invasion together with us,” he said in a defiant video address on Saturday.

“I say it as frankly as it can be, the Ukrainian people deserve and have the right to get membership of the European Union. This will be the main evidence of support for our country."

Zelenskyy confirmed that he spoke to European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen about what he said was a crucial moment to decide on the country's EU future once and for all.

Michel responded to Zelenskyy on Twitter, saying that "Ukraine and its people are family. Further concrete support is on its way."

In his address, Zelenskyy also asked the likes of Germany and Hungary to show "courage" on SWIFT and agree to the move.

"The anti-war coalition is working. Defensive weapons and equipment are arriving to Ukraine. We have almost unanimous support from the EU on cutting Russia from SWIFT. I hope Germany and Hungary will find the courage to support this decision."

On his Twitter account, Zelenskyy shared he was receiving "support calls" from several European leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron, Swiss President Ignazio Cassis and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who he said offered "concrete assistance to Ukraine".

An earlier misunderstanding regarding a missed call from Italian PM Mario Draghi was also cleared up. Zelenskyy claimed that Draghi "in a phone conversation supported Russia's disconnection from SWIFT" and promised defence assistance.

"Ukraine must become part of the EU," Zelenskyy repeated.

For the Western allies, cutting Russia out of the SWIFT financial system — which shuffles money from bank to bank around the globe — would be one of the toughest financial steps they could take, damaging Russia's economy immediately and in the long term.

The move could cut Russia off from most international financial transactions, including international profits from oil and gas production, which accounts for more than 40% of the country's revenue.

In an emotional speech, Zelenskyy accused the Russian forces of hitting civilian areas and infrastructure.

He also said the country's armed forces were successfully fighting back against Russian troops, that Russian attempts to forge into Kyiv had been repelled, and Moscow's plan to quickly seize the capital and install a puppet government had been thwarted.

In an earlier video address on his smartphone in downtown Kyiv on Saturday, he stated that the "disinformation" online about him asking the Ukrainian army to surrender is not true.

"I am here. We will not lay down any weapons. We will defend our land, because our weapons are our truth," he said.

"Our truth is that this is our land, our country, our children and we will protect all of this."

Russian troops stormed toward Ukraine's capital Saturday, and street fighting broke out as city officials urged residents to take shelter. The country's president refused offers to evacuate, insisting that he would stay. "The fight is here," he said.