THE HAGUE (Reuters) -Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy asked the Dutch parliament on Thursday for weapons, reconstruction aid and a halt to all business with Russia in response to the invasion of his country.
“Stronger sanctions are needed so that Russia doesn’t have a chance to pursue this war further in Europe,” he told lawmakers via video link. “Stop all trade with Russia.”
Zelenskiy, the first foreign head of state to address a plenary session of the 150-member Dutch lower house of representatives, said the Netherlands must “be prepared to stop the energy from Russia so that you do not pay billions for the war”.
Roughly 20% of Dutch natural gas comes from Russia, which has become an increasingly important trading partner for the Netherlands in recent years.
The Dutch, along with other EU countries including Germany, are looking for other energy sources, but quick alternatives are few and global supplies limited.
Zelenskiy asked the Dutch to “adopt a city” in Ukraine to focus post-war reconstruction efforts.
The Netherlands has supplied Ukrainian forces with military equipment, including anti-tank rockets and Patriot air defence systems and is also supporting NATO’s increased presence along the military alliance’s eastern flank.
The Dutch have so far been unable to effectively freeze or seize tens of billions of euros (dollars) in Russian assets registered in the Netherlands, due to complex tax structures that make it difficult to identify ultimate owners of corporate holdings and property.
A letter to parliament from the Finance Ministry on March 22 said 392 million euros ($431.24 million) in Russian assets and transactions had been frozen under EU sanctions imposed since the invasion on Feb. 24.
Opposition Labour Party leader Lilianne Ploumen called on the government of Prime Minister Mark Rutte to urgently implement EU sanctions and quickly target the assets because we can “no longer justify this to Ukraine”.
In a reference to the war crimes courts in the Netherlands, Zelenskiy called for justice.
“Those who gave the orders (to bombard and shell Ukraine) must be called to account. In The Hague, city of tribunals, people know that,” he said.