Greece must use EU influence to help Mariupol: Zelensky
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday called on Greece to use its clout in the EU to rescue the remaining population of “martyred” Mariupol.
“Please use your influence as EU members to better organise whatever rescue can be carried out in Mariupol,” Zelensky told a special session of the Greek parliament, according to the official translation.
Mariupol, located in a strategic southeastern spot between Russia-occupied Crimea and pro-Russian separatist regions in Ukraine’s east, has been battered by Russian assaults since February.
“We must save whoever we can,” Zelensky said, adding that some 100,000 people were still left around the devastated port city.
“Mariupol and Odessa need immediate assistance,” he said, referring to the two Ukrainian cities that have had large ethnic Greek populations for centuries.
The Ukraine president also called for stronger bans on Russian banks and tankers.
“Russian banks must not be able to make money on the global credit system, we must shut the door, not just to some of them,” he said.
“For as long as this terrible war continues, no (ship) of Russian registry or interests can be allowed to access European ports… no acceptance of Russian tankers,” Zelensky said.
Greek ministers and MPs gave Zelensky a standing ovation at the close of his speech, which was attended by the Greek head of state President Katerina Sakellaropoulou.
The Greek communists and a small nationalist party boycotted the event.
There was subsequently widespread outrage as the 15-minute speech included a brief intervention by a self-styled member of the Azov Regiment, the nationalist unit defending Mariupol that has been accused of far-right links.
“The speech by members of the neo-Nazi Azov Regiment is a provocation,” tweeted leftist former prime minister Alexis Tsipras. Conservative ex-PM Antonis Samaras also called the move a “big mistake.”
Earlier Thursday, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said Athens would call on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to probe “crimes of war” in the port city.
“Greece has a specific, special interest for Mariupol because of the existence of a 100,000 and more Greek community in Mariupol,” Dendias said as he arrived for the second day of a NATO meeting in Brussels.
Greece has also offered to rebuild the maternity hospital in Mariupol that was shelled in March.
Though a traditional Russia ally bound by centuries of tradition and a shared Orthodox Christian faith, Greece has unequivocally condemned Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Athens has sent Kyiv humanitarian and lethal aid, and on Wednesday said it was expelling 12 members of Russia’s diplomatic and consular missions.