Zelenskyy pleads for help in impassioned speech to Congress – Press Enterprise


WASHINGTON (AP) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday in an impassioned video plea commemorated Pearl Harbor and the September 11 terrorist attacks to Congress to send more aid to Ukraine’s fight against Russia. Lawmakers stood and cheered, and President Joe Biden later announced that the US would send more anti-aircraft, anti-tank weapons and drones.

Biden also declared that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a war criminal — his harshest conviction yet — the day after the Senate unanimously requested an international probe into Putin’s war crimes in Ukraine.

In a dramatic moment at the Capitol, Zelenskyy livestreamed his speech to an enthusiastic audience of lawmakers on a giant screen and acknowledged from the start that the no-fly zone, which he has repeatedly tried to “close the skies” to, could be used by air strikes on his country must not happen. Biden has resisted this, as has US or NATO approval of sending MiG fighter jets from Poland, as it risks a major war with nuclear-armed Putin.

Instead, Zelenskyy called for more military aid and more drastic economic sanctions to stop the Russian onslaught, with his country’s fate at stake.

Wearing his now signature army green T-shirt, Zelinskyy began his remarks to “Americans, friends” by referring to the devastation suffered by the US in 1941 when Japan bombed the Pearl Harbor naval base in Hawaii, and the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon by militants who seized passenger planes to crack down on symbols of Western democracy and business.

“Do you remember Pearl Harbor? … Do you remember 9/11?” Zelenskyy asked. “Our country is experiencing the same thing every day right now.”

To stop the slaughter, Zelenskyy told American lawmakers, “I urge you to do more.”

Nearing the three-week mark in an ever-escalating war, Zelensky is taking the global stage to plead with Allied leaders to help stop the Russian invasion of his country. The young actor-turned-president has emerged as a heroic figure at the center of what many see as the greatest security threat to Europe since World War II. Nearly 3 million refugees have fled Ukraine as violence spread, the fastest exodus in modern times.

Biden, who said he listened to Zelenskyi’s speech at the White House, did not directly respond to criticism that the US should do more for Ukrainians. But he said: “We are united in our abhorrence of Putin’s depraved attack and we will continue to back them as they fight for their freedom, their democracy, their very survival.”

Later, leaving behind an unrelated event, he declared of Putin: “He is a war criminal” – the strongest condemnation of Putin and Russia by a US official since the invasion of Ukraine.

Biden noted that Russia had bombed hospitals and taken doctors hostage.

In the White Hose, Biden described new aids that he had already announced. He said the US would send an additional $800 million in military aid, totaling $2 billion in such aid since he took office more than a year ago. About $1 billion in aid funds were sent in the past week. Biden said the new support includes 800 Stinger anti-aircraft systems, 100 grenade launchers, 20 million rounds of small arms ammunition and grenade launchers, as well as mortar shells and an unspecified number of drones.

“We will give Ukraine the weapons to fight and defend through all of the difficult days that lie ahead,” Biden said.

Zelenskyy, speaking from the capital Kyiv, showed the packed lawmakers’ auditorium vivid video of the destruction and devastation his country suffered in the war, along with heartbreaking scenes of civilian casualties.

“We need you now,” he said.

Lawmakers gave him a standing ovation before and after his brief remarks, which Zelenskyy began in Ukrainian through an interpreter, but then switched to English in a heartfelt appeal to stop the bloodshed.

“I see no point in life if it can’t stop the deaths,” he said.

Among the new military hardware Biden approved are 100 Switchblade 300 missile system drones that Zelenskyy was seeking, according to a US official familiar with the decision. The official was not authorized to speak publicly by name on the sensitive matter and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Lawmakers, with rare unanimity, seemed moved by the speech. Sen. Angus King, the Maine Independent. said there was a “collective hold of breath” in the room during Zelenskyy’s speech. Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said: “If you haven’t watched this video and feel that not only the United States, but also the free countries of the world, have an obligation to unite in support of Ukraine, you have yours Eyes seen closed.” Delivering the address heartbreakingly, Majority Whip Dick Durbin said, “I’m on board with a blank check for sanctions, whatever we can do to stop this Russian advance.”

Outside the Capitol, protesters held up a large sign for lawmakers to see as they walked back to their offices. “No-Fly Zone = WW3.”

The President of Ukraine is no stranger to Congress, having played a central role in Donald Trump’s first impeachment. As president, Trump has been accused of withholding security aid from Ukraine when he pressured Zelenskyy to dig dirt on political rival Biden. Zelenskyy spoke from a giant screen on Wednesday with many of the same Republican lawmakers who have declined to impeach or condemn Trump but are among the bipartisan beginnings in Congress now clamoring for military aid to Ukraine.

He thanked the American people for their support, even as he urged Biden to do more.

“You are the leader of the nation. I wish you to be the leader of the world,” he said. “To be the leader of the world is to be the leader of peace.”

This was Zelenskyy’s last visit, as he uses the major legislatures of the West in his pleas for help. He referred to Shakespeare’s Hamlet in the British House of Commons last week, asked whether Ukraine “should be or not” and told Congress that the people of his country want what Americans want: “democracy, independence, liberty”.

He often pushes for more help to save his fledgling democracy than leaders have so far pledged.

Biden has insisted that no US troops will be stationed in Ukraine.

“A direct conflict between NATO and Russia is World War III,” he said.

Zelenskyi seemed to recognize political reality across certain borders.

“Is that asking too much to create a no-fly zone over Ukraine?” he asked, answering his own question. “If that’s too much to ask, we offer an alternative,” he said, calling for weapons systems that would help fight Russian planes.

Congress has already approved $13.6 billion in military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, and the newly announced security aid will come from that allocation, which is part of a broader bill Biden signed into law Tuesday.


Associated Press writers Zeke Miller, Mary Clare Jalonick, Ellen Knickmeyer, Farnoush Amiri, Kevin Freking, Alan Fram, Nomaan Merchant and Chris Megerian and Raf Casert in Brussels, Jill Lawless in London, Aritz Parra in Madrid and video journalist Rick Gentilo commented on this contributed report.


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