Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been made a freeman of Edinburgh, joining an exclusive club which includes the Queen and Olympic cyclist Sir Chris Hoy.
Councillors in the capital unanimously awarded freedom of the city to Zelensky and Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Edinburgh’s twin city Kyiv, on Thursday in honour of their “leadership and heroism”.
Adam McVey, City of Edinburgh Council leader, said the authority was “standing firm in friendship with the people of Ukraine, committing to doing whatever we can to help”.
“I hope this decision demonstrates our absolute solidarity and admiration of the people of Kyiv and Ukraine, who have literally taken up arms in defence of their country against this illegal and murderous invasion by Putin’s forces, and I very much hope that, one day, they’ll be able to receive this honour in person,” he said.
The freedom of the city is Edinburgh’s most prestigious honour, and dates back more than 560 years to 1459.
The president and mayor join an exclusive club of freemen of the capital, with others including the Duke of Edinburgh, Sir Sean Connery and Nelson Mandela.
Councillors backed a motion which commended “the outstanding leadership of the mayor of our twin city, Kyiv, and the president of Ukraine, who has remained in Kyiv to fight against the Russian invasion”.
It applauds “the heroism of the Ukrainian people, led by their president, members of parliament and mayors from across the country in fighting side-by-side to defend their nation” and “agrees to confer the freedom of the city of Edinburgh on Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in recognition of their leadership and heroism”.
Cammy Day, depute leader of the council, said the honour “is very rarely conferred in Edinburgh so the unanimous decision at council speaks volumes about the strength of Edinburgh’s solidarity”.
Members of the council agreed to ban Russian cultural events and performances at venues it owns, and councillors have demanded Russian diplomatic staff are expelled from the city until troops leave Ukraine.
The authority also agreed to spend £100,000 to help humanitarian aid efforts, and urged the Home Office to lift visa requirements for Ukrainian refugees.
McVey said the money would make a “huge difference” and pledged to “continue to look at further actions in the weeks and months ahead to do everything within our power to help people who are arriving in our city to escape Ukraine”.
“There’s no doubting the enormity of the task to make this happen and I know the Ukrainian community are immensely grateful for the support they’ve had so far,” he added.
Late last week the road where the Ukrainian consulate is based in Edinburgh was unofficially renamed in honour of Zelensky.
A sign saying “Volodymyr Zelenskyy Street” was attached to railings outside the consulate in Windsor Street.