Ukraine-Russia war: Edinburgh approves freedom of city for Volodymyr Zelensky and Vitali Klitschko
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Council leader Adam McVey said the decision to give the two men the Capital’s highest honour was a demonstration of “absolute solidarity and admiration” not just for them but for the people of Ukraine and Kyiv, Edinburgh’s twin city.
He said: “These are two men who have shown exceptional leadership of their country, fighting alongside their residents, MPs and council members, for the survival of their nation against tyranny and dictatorship.”
And Hannah Beaton-Hawryluk, chair of the Edinburgh Ukrainian club, said she hoped President Zelensky and Mayor Klitschko would soon be able to come to Edinburgh to collect their honours.
The council also agreed to ban all Russian government-supported arts and cultural events and performances in council-owned venues, withdraw all support and cooperation with the Russian consulate, write to the Russian ambassador, advising him the Russian consul is no longer welcome in the Capital and ask the UK Foreign Office to request the expulsion of Russian diplomatic staff from Edinburgh until Russian troops vacate Ukraine.
And it allocated up to £100,000 to help coordinate local humanitarian aid efforts.
The council also backed a call from the Greens for consideration of street renaming. Green councillor Alex Staniforth said there was an opportunity to embarrass the Russians by changing the name of Melville Street, where the Russian consulate is based. He noted it had been proposed it could be renamed Zelensky Street, but he suggested “Free Ukraine Street”.
In an emotional speech to councillors, Hannah Beaton-Hawryluk, on behalf of the Ukraine Association in Edinburgh, welcomed the move to give President Zelensky and Mayor Klitschko the freedom of the city.
She said: "Both leaders in the face of an aggressor have stood steadfast by their offices in Kyiv to steer Ukraine through the most challenging period in its history.
“While Ukraine is at war now, as a community we look forward to hopefully being able to welcome both gentlemen to the city in the near future to collect their honours.
“Now more than ever it is important the world stands shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine and seeks to isolate Russia wherever possible.
“Your motion sends a very clear message that Russia, its instruments of state and cultural exports are not welcome in the city while it chooses the path of aggression.”
She said the Ukrainian Club's appeal for items of aid had filled seven large storage units and sent two lorries to Romania and Ukraine.
"The aid sent to date has been a fantastic support for the communities it has benefited. However the clear message from aid charities is that monetary donations are now key to their work. This allows aid charities on the ground to purchase the required supplies and support the local economies hardest hit by the conflict."
She suggested rather than pay for transport the council’s £100,000 for humanitarian aid might fund other initiatives such as offering a staff member who was a logistics expert to a Polish local authority to support the movement of refugees or supporting social services organisations on the ground in Poland.