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Zelenskyy says Russia wants to ‘annihilate’ Ukrainians, urges no-fly zone

Click to play video: 'Zelenskyy pleads for no-fly zone in House of Commons speech' Zelenskyy pleads for no-fly zone in House of Commons speech
WATCH: Canada MPs gave Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy a standing ovation for his emotional appeal to the House of Commons, where he pleaded for tougher actions against Russia. Abigail Bimman explains how Zelenskyy criticized NATO allies, how his message moved politicians and Ukrainian-Canadians, and how Moscow has now imposed a ban on more than 300 Canadians, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – Mar 15, 2022

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says the unprovoked invasion by Russia of his country is an attempt to “annihilate” the Ukrainian people and enacting a no-fly zone is vital to support the resistance effort.

Canadian parliamentarians gathered for the speech Tuesday morning in a packed House of Commons, wearing suits and blazers and scarves in blue and yellow — the colours of the Ukrainian flag. Many wore ribbons pinned to their chests in the flag colours, and the galleries overlooking the chamber were full.

Zelenskyy’s virtual address began with an impassioned plea for Canadians to put themselves in the shoes of Ukrainians facing shelling and horrific violence at the hands of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Click to play video: 'Civilian death toll rises from Russia’s intensifying attacks on Ukraine' Civilian death toll rises from Russia’s intensifying attacks on Ukraine
Civilian death toll rises from Russia’s intensifying attacks on Ukraine – Mar 15, 2022
“Can you imagine [the] famous CN Tower in Toronto, if it was hit by Russian bombs? Of course, I don’t wish this on anyone. But this is our reality,” Zelenskyy said, adding 97 children have been killed so far.
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“Can you imagine when you call your friends, your friendly nation, and you ask ‘please close the sky, close the airspace, please stop the bombing, how many more cruise missiles have to fall on our cities until you make this happen?'” he continued.

“And they, in return, they express their deep concerns about the situation.”

Read more: Transcript of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s speech to Parliament

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other leaders of the NATO military alliance have ruled out a no-fly zone in Ukraine despite repeated pleas from the country’s leadership.

Enforcing a no-fly zone would require a willingness to shoot Russian jets out of the sky — a red line that Trudeau and NATO leaders have warned could escalate into open conflict with nuclear-armed Russia.

Zelenskyy said the stakes of not doing so are clear.

“It’s their attempt to annihilate Ukrainian people, and there is nothing else to it. This is their main objective. It’s actually the war against Ukrainian people, and it’s an attempt to destroy everything that we as Ukrainians do,” Zelenskyy said.

“Please understand how important it is for us to close our airspace from Russian missiles and Russian aircraft … I hope you can understand. I hope you can increase your efforts.”

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Read more: What is a no-fly zone? Here’s why the West isn’t imposing one in Ukraine

Trudeau along with interim Conservative Leader Candice Bergen, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and others are also offering remarks about the increasingly dire situation in Ukraine.

In an opening speech introducing Zelenskyy, Trudeau described him as a “champion” for democracy and said the courage of Ukrainians “inspires us all.”

That prompted a standing ovation from parliamentarians and people in the galleries overlooking the House of Commons, as Zelenskyy began to speak.

Click to play video: 'Ukrainian President Zelenskyy welcomed with long round of applause in House of Commons' Ukrainian President Zelenskyy welcomed with long round of applause in House of Commons
Ukrainian President Zelenskyy welcomed with long round of applause in House of Commons – Mar 15, 2022

Following his address, Bergen called the leadership Zelenskyy is showing amid the invasion of his country “very rare,” and called for Canada to do more.

“Putin’s brutal attack on Ukraine is an attack on all of us. That’s the lesson history has taught us, and one we cannot ignore,” said Bergen.

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“We need to protect at a minimum the airspace over humanitarian corridors.”

Click to play video: 'Conservatives call to prosecute Putin, secure Ukraine’s airspace' Conservatives call to prosecute Putin, secure Ukraine’s airspace
Conservatives call to prosecute Putin, secure Ukraine’s airspace – Mar 15, 2022

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also praised the people of Ukraine for their “rising spirit” in the face of incredible odds, as Green House Leader Elizabeth May offered emotional pleas for the need to create new tools to stop the war if the world will not impose a no-fly zone.

“We must not relent for one single second,” May said, calling Zelenskyy “a man of such moral courage that the world is inspired.”

Following his speech, Zelenskyy wrote on his Telegram channel that he hoped he was able to convey that “Russia strive(s) to destroy everything that makes Ukrainians Ukrainians: out future, our character, our will. But they won’t succeed.”

Read more: Zelenskyy’s pleas to Western governments for Ukraine aid ‘having an impact,’ experts say

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The sovereign democracy has been resisting the Russian invasion launched by Vladimir Putin since it began on Feb. 24, but Ukrainian leaders have called for more help from western countries and NATO.

Russia’s advance is stalled and proceeding more slowly than many anticipated. Meanwhile, Putin’s forces are facing renewed accusations of indiscriminately bombing civilian areas.

The United Nations estimates 2.8 million Ukrainians are now refugees, forced to flee to neighbouring countries as millions of others remain as part of the resistance effort.

Click to play video: '‘We will fight to the end’: Zelenskyy makes impassioned plea to U.K. Parliament' ‘We will fight to the end’: Zelenskyy makes impassioned plea to U.K. Parliament
‘We will fight to the end’: Zelenskyy makes impassioned plea to U.K. Parliament – Mar 8, 2022

Zelenskyy’s address comes after four days of peace talks between Russian and Ukrainian officials failed to produce any breakthroughs. Zelenskyy continues to urge Putin to meet.

In recent days, Russian forces attacked a maternity hospital in the besieged port city of Mariupol and launched missiles at an international military training facility 20 kilometres from the Polish border.

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Dozens are dead as a result, with more than 100 injured.

Poland is a NATO country and the provocative missile strikes raised fresh questions about Putin’s willingness to test the military alliance, which has so far sought to avoid any direct confrontation over concerns about potential escalation.

Russia has thousands of nuclear weapons.

Read more: Translator chokes up as Zelenskyy gives emotional address to EU parliament

Zelenskyy’s address follows similar speeches made to the British Parliament and the European Union Parliament. His remarks to the EU on March 1 were so stirring that it caused the official translator to choke up with emotion.

During a speech to the British Parliament last week, Zelenskyy received a standing ovation after an impassioned plea to lawmakers. He vowed: “We will fight to the end.”

Zelenskyy is due to speak to the U.S. Congress on Wednesday.

Click to play video: 'Ukraine criticizes NATO after children’s hospital bombed' Ukraine criticizes NATO after children’s hospital bombed
Ukraine criticizes NATO after children’s hospital bombed – Mar 9, 2022

With files from Global’s Sean Boynton

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