In a sombre and sometimes emotional address, delivered virtually to members of the U.S. Congress, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for a closing of the sky over Ukraine — a no fly zone and further sanctions against Russia. His address on Wednesday morning, his first to U.S. Representatives and Senators, was also directed to Americans and — at one point — to U.S. President Joe Biden.
Comparing the skies over Ukraine to what America had witnessed during Pearl Harbor (when the Japanese conducted an aerial attack on the U.S. in December 1941 in Pearl Harbour, Hawaii) and the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York, Mr. Zelenksy said, “Russia has turned the Ukrainian sky into a source of death.”
“They use drones to kill us with precision. This is a terror that Europe has not seen has not seen for 80 years and we are asking...for an answer to this terror from the whole world,” Mr. Zelensky said, speaking in the Ukrainian language except at the very end of his speech when he switched to English.
At one point during his remarks, Mr. Zelensky played U.S lawmakers a video showing scenes from Ukraine before and after the war — including some images that have been circulated widely in the past few weeks — a pregnant woman on a stretcher, a family lying dead on the road, and a small boy crying and walking along what appears to be an evacuation route.
“Is this a lot to ask for, to create a no fly zone zone over Ukraine to save people? “ he said. The U.S. and NATO have dismissed the no fly zone option, with Mr. Biden saying last week that it would be tantamount to “World War Three”.
Mr. Zelenksy said if the no fly zone was too much of an ask, then he would need defence systems to protect the sky, such as the S 300 surface-to-air missile defence system. The U.S. Congress has also been nudging the White House to get Ukraine access to this in addition to Russian-made MiG fighters, which Ukrainian pilots are familiar with. It has been harder for the Biden administration to facilitate the transfer of Russian systems (which would have to happen through a third country) to Ukraine, relative to transferring American weaponry.
Mr. Zelenksky also called or sanctioned all Russian politicians — from Duma members to “the last official” who had not cut ties with Mr. Putin’s government.
Saying the current institutions to prevent war do not work, Mr. Zelensky called for the creation of a group called ‘U24: United for Peace’, which would seek to end conflict within 24 hours using weapons, sanctions, humanitarian aid, finance, political support and so forth.
“Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace,” Mr. Zelensky said at the end of his remarks, speaking in English and exhorting Mr. Biden, directly, to take on take on this role.
Mr. Biden is going to be announcing $800 million in security assistance to Ukraine, as first reported by the Wall Street Journal . This is in addition to the $200 million already sanctioned. The total amount will come from the approximately $13.6 billion that Congress approved - and Mr Biden signed - in assistance to Ukraine and includes defence equipment.