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Interpreter breaks down during Zelensky’s speech to European Union

An interpreter for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's speech to the European Parliament on March 1 broke down during the address. (Video: The Washington Post)

BRUSSELS — The English-language interpreter for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s speech to European lawmakers on Tuesday was so moved by the remarks that he momentarily lost his composure.

During the virtual address, Zelensky described the recent shelling of Kharkiv, including a missile strike on the city’s Freedom Square. “Can you imagine, two cruise missiles, dozens killed,” the interpreter said, his voice shaking. “This is the price of freedom.”

“We are fighting,” the interpreter continued, taking a breath. “Just for our land,” he said, exhaling sharply. “Despite the fact that all of our cities are blocked, that nobody is going to enter and intervene.”

The speech was a desperate plea to the European Parliament, with Zelensky all but begging the European Union to “prove they are with us” by letting Ukraine join the bloc, which now has 27 members.

“We have proven our strength,” he continued. “So do prove that you are with us. Prove that you will not let us go. Prove that you indeed are Europeans.”

Volodymyr Zelensky has vowed to remain in Ukraine as Russia continues its advance. The president's past life as an actor may have prepared him for this moment. (Video: Allie Caren/The Washington Post, Photo: Brian Monroe/The Washington Post)

The address was met with a standing ovation from lawmakers and with expressions of goodwill from various European leaders.

But as Zelensky signed off to return to the fight on the ground, it remained unclear whether his country had a shot at joining the bloc, let alone when.

War in Ukraine: What you need to know

The latest: Russia fired at least 85 missiles on at least six major cities in Ukraine on November 15, in one of the most widespread attacks of the war so far. The strikes came just hours after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking by video link, presented a 10-point peace plan to G-20 leaders at a summit in Indonesia. As in previous Russian missile attacks, critical civilian infrastructure appeared to be primary targets. Parts of several cities that were hit were left without electrical power on Tuesday afternoon.

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