Poland’s president has travelled to Kyiv to become the first foreign leader to address the Ukrainian parliament since the start of Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Ukrainian legislators stood on Sunday to applaud Polish President Andrzej Duda, who thanked them for the honour of speaking in a place where, he said, “the heart of a free, independent and democratic Ukraine beats”, according to remarks carried by the Polish state-run news agency PAP.
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“The free world has the face of Ukraine,” Duda told the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s legislature.
“Despite the great destruction, despite the terrible crimes, the great suffering that the Ukrainian nation experiences every day, the Russian invaders did not break you, they did not manage to do it and I believe deeply that they will never succeed,” he said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the speech by the Polish president a “historic moment”.
Poland and Ukraine’s “strong” relations had been “built through blood, through Russian aggression”, Zelenskyy said.
Poland has emerged as one of Ukraine’s foremost allies, becoming a major gateway for Western humanitarian aid and weapons going into the country, and is also a transit point for some foreign fighters, including from Belarus, who have volunteered to fight against Russian forces.
Al Jazeera’s Zein Basravi underlined the importance of the surprise visit by the Polish president, and the significance of Duda becoming the first head of state to address Ukraine’s parliament in Kyiv since the Russian invasion was launched in February.
“Unlike countries like Germany and France that have strong, traditionally strong business and political ties to Russia, that have tried to strike a far more balanced and practical diplomatic approach in terms of dealing with Russia and Ukraine, throughout this conflict, Poland has fallen squarely on the side of Ukraine,” Basravi said reporting from Kyiv.
Basravi said that Poland “knows, its leaders know, that if Ukraine falls, then suddenly the front line becomes the Polish border”.
“And to that effect, the Polish president speaking here, in the capital, had a very clear message for world leaders, for his counterparts in Europe – that there can be no business with Russia after what its forces have done in places like Mariupol, Borodyanka, and north of Kyiv in the city of Bucha,” he said.
Zelenskyy also announced on Sunday that Polish citizens in Ukraine will be granted the same rights that Ukrainian refugees are currently receiving in Poland. Poland has granted the right to live and work and claim social security payments to more than 3 million Ukrainian refugees fleeing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.