On the morning of Friday, March 17th, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivered a speech to the German Bundestag in which he renewed his call for support in the war against Russia. This time, instead of concrete demands for a no-fly zone, he appealed to the conscience of Germans—invoking their ‘historical responsibility by drawing comparisons to the Berlin Wall, as well as referring to the crimes of the Nazis in Ukraine.
Zelensky ended his speech, which received standing ovations at the beginning and at the end, with an appeal to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz: “There is a wall in Europe again,” Zelensky said, “dear Chancellor Scholz, destroy this wall. Give Germany the leadership role that Germany deserves.”
In the days prior, the Ukrainian president had already given similar speeches in front of the U.S. Congress, the Canadian Parliament, and the British House of Commons. As in previous speeches, Zelensky emphasized the Ukrainian people’s struggle for freedom against the Russian invasion in his address to the Bundestag, but he also accused the German government and business community of still receiving Russian gas. The Ukrainian president also called for further sanctions against Russia and expressed his hope that these would put an end to the bloodshed. The EU has already imposed 678 sanctions on Russia since February 22—300 more than the United States.
Opposition leaders in the German parliament were outraged after Zelensky’s speech ended. Instead of allowing a debate, Vice President of the Bundestag Katrin Göring-Eckardt of the Green Party followed the agenda and congratulated two parliamentarians on their 60th birthdays. Members of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, in particular, expressed their displeasure with the closure of the topic, with some parliamentarians loudly demanding a debate.
Norbert Röttgen of the CDU called the immediate transition from Zelensky’s speech to the order of the day “the most undignified moment in the Bundestag” he had “ever experienced.” His colleague from the CSU, Alexander Dobrindt, told Die Welt that “many offers” to fit a debate into the schedule had been made, “including a proposal to suspend the session,” but the parliamentary group leader of the Green Party, Britta Haßelmann, recommended to “just let the speech sink in” instead. In the final vote on the matter, the governing parties voted against the motion to debate.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz later took to Twitter, announcing that his government was committed to “doing everything possible to give diplomacy a chance and end the war.”
Out of loyalty to Ukraine, some members of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group wore blue and yellow clothing and FFP2 masks in Ukraine’s national colors.