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Zelenskyy calls for ‘freedom or death’

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the Greek Parliament with references to Greek antiquity and invoked the “Freedom or Death” war cry used by the Greeks during their 1821 Revolution, saying that this also expressed his country’s struggle against Russian invaders.

As expected, he also referred to the historic presence of Greeks in southern Ukraine, namely Mariupol and Odessa.

“‘Freedom or Death,’ your revolutionaries used to say. We say the same today. As we are confronting freedom or death,” he said. “It will be the Thermopylae where some heroes died, but we must find a way to drive the Russian troops out of Ukrainian territory, once and for all, so that every barbaric attacker learns that whoever chooses war will eventually lose,” he said.

The virtual linkup with Parliament was attended by President Katerina Sakellaropoulou – who reiterated that “we are all Ukrainians” – Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras, government officials, and lawmakers from ruling New Democracy, SYRIZA and KINAL. MeRA25 was represented by an MP, while the Communist Party and Greek Solution were absent.

However, there was some negative feedback to the choice of the Ukrainians to also broadcast a message from a fighter in the Azov Battalion, a far-right militia now part of Ukraine’s National Guard, and the fact that Zelenskyy did not mention the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, despite it being raised by Parliament Speaker Konstantinos Tasoulas during his inaugural address.

Leftist SYRIZA criticized the government over the incident and demanded an explanation from Tasoulas.

Government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou regretted the appearance of the Azov Battalion fighter, who identified himself as an ethnic Greek fighting in Mariupol, saying it was “mistaken and off the mark.”

Oikonomou, nevertheless, slammed SYRIZA for allegedly “using that mistake… to justify the Russian invasion.”

With regard to Cyprus, Tasoulas referred to Zelenskyy’s recent speech at the United Nations on the need to “immediately restore the validity of the UN Charter and for Russia to respect international law.”

Tasoulas stressed that Greece and Hellenism, for at least five decades, have been supporting exactly the same inviolable principles and “for reasons of defending our national rights.”

“The northern part of Cyprus has been under Turkish occupation since 1974,” he said, but to no avail, as Zelenskyy, whose government maintains open channels of communication and cooperation with Ankara, avoided any reference to Cyprus.