Zelensky calls on US Congress for more Russia sanctions, defense aid

In an emotional speech, Zelensky invoked Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 attack as he discussed the Russian airstrikes on Ukrainian cities.

 Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy delivers a video address to senators and members of the House of Representatives gathered in the Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Auditorium at the US Capitol in Washington, US, March 16, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/SARAH SILBIGER)
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy delivers a video address to senators and members of the House of Representatives gathered in the Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Auditorium at the US Capitol in Washington, US, March 16, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/SARAH SILBIGER)

WASHINGTON – Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky urged the US to impose a “no-fly zone” in Ukraine, in a virtual speech delivered to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.

Zelensky thanked the US for its assistance for Ukraine, but called “to do more” in imposing new sanctions and providing his country with new defense systems and aircraft.

In an emotional speech, Zelensky invoked Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 attack as he discussed the Russian airstrikes on Ukrainian cities. He also presented a short video clip showing civilian victims and massive damage to Ukrainian cities.

He used the last part of his speech to speak in English directly to US President Joe Biden, saying  that “to be a leader of the world also means to be a leader for peace.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced Zelensky and greeted him with the words “Slava Ukraine,” a patriotic expression meaning Glory to Ukraine. “It is my honor to present to you the Congress of the United States, which has great respect and admiration and appreciation for your courageous leadership,” she told Zelensky.

 Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 10, 2022 in this still image taken from video. (credit: UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE/VIA REUTERS TV/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 10, 2022 in this still image taken from video. (credit: UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE/VIA REUTERS TV/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

“I’m proud to greet you from Ukraine from our capital city of Kyiv, a city that is under missile and airstrikes from Russian troops every day but it doesn’t give up, and we have not even thought about it for a second,” Zelensky said. “Russia has attacked, and not just us, not just our land, not just our cities. It went on a brutal offensive against our basic human values.

“Russian troops have already fired nearly 1,000 missiles at Ukraine, countless bombs. They use drones to kill us with precision. This is a terror that Europe has not seen for 80 years. And we are asking for a response. Is this a lot to ask for, to create a no-fly zone over Ukraine to save people?”

If imposing a no-fly zone is not possible, Zelensky said, there is an alternative. “You know what kind of defense systems we need – S300 and other similar systems. You know how much depends on the battlefield on the ability to use aircraft to protect our people, our freedom, our land. Aircraft can help Ukraine, help Europe. [These aircraft] exist and you have them, but they’re on the ground, not in the Ukraine sky. They do not defend our people.”

He invoked Martin Luther King’s words “I have a dream,” and added: “Today, I can say, ‘I have a need.’ I need to protect our sky. I need your decision, your help, which means exactly the same, the same you feel when you hear these words ‘I have a dream.’ Ukraine is grateful to the United States for its overwhelming support for everything that your government and your people have done for us: for weapons and ammunition, for training, for finances, for leadership in the free world, which helps us to pressure the aggressor economically. I’m grateful to President Biden for his personal involvement, for his sincere commitment, to the defense of Ukraine and democracy all over the world.

“I am grateful to you for the resolution, which recognizes all those who commit crimes against Ukrainian people as war criminals. However, in the darkest time for our country, I call on you to do more – new packages of sanctions. I need it constantly every week until the Russian military machine stops.”