PHILADELPHIA, 8 Nov. (DPA/EP) -
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky received the 2022 Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest civilian honor, on Monday from the National Center for the US Constitution.
In this way, the body has honored the Ukrainian president for his "heroic defense of freedom against Russian tyranny", after the president appeared in a video recorded during the ceremony accepting the award.
Senators Chris Coons and Rob Portman visited kyiv last week and presented Zelensky with the medal in person. The Constitution Center announced the award in August, saying the Ukrainian leader was selected "for his heroic defense of freedom against Russian tyranny" during the war in Ukraine.
During the act, also in a video message projected at the ceremony, former President George W. Bush called Zelensky "the Winston Churchill of our time."
Also, Jeffrey Rosen, president of the National Constitution Center, has read a letter from US President Joe Biden, who called Zelensky a "rare patriot."
"When Russia launched its brutal assault on Ukraine eight months ago, President Zelensky stood his ground and declared: 'The President is here.' His words roused the Ukrainian people and echoed around the world. Today, he fearlessly continues to lead country, defending the sovereignty of Ukraine and fighting to maintain the basic values that unite us all," says Biden's letter.
Zelensky's medal acceptance speech was presented by Iryna Mazur, honorary consul of Ukraine in Philadelphia, who detailed to the attendees that "if you are here today, as guests or as sponsors, it means that Zelensky has touched your hearts He, along with the entire Ukrainian nation, has become a symbol of unity, strength and unyielding desire for independence, the basic right to be free and to choose your own future."
In his acceptance speech, which Rosen said had been recorded just hours earlier, Zelensky asserted that millions of people are fighting and working to protect Ukraine, and that the Medal of Freedom honors them.
"And now we see what democracies are capable of when they act together ... Every potential aggressor in the world sees the help that the United States and the free world is providing us, and all the sanctions imposed against Russia see and believe that it is better not to start a war against freedom at all," Zelensky said.
The Medal of Freedom, created in 1988, has been awarded to international leaders and other celebrated figures who have worked to protect freedom around the world.
Past laureates include Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev, Muhammad Ali, Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel and Viktor Yushchenko, the former Ukrainian president who was left grossly disfigured by poisoning suspected to have been caused by the Russians. Additionally, Biden himself was awarded that medal in 2017 by then-President Barack Obama.
The medal is endowed with 100,000 dollars (a similar figure in euros), which Zelenski confessed that he would donate to a new Ukrainian Veterans Fund.