UPDATE, 10:13 AM PT: President Joe Biden, delivering remarks after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s plea for assistance to Congress, said that the U.S. was trying to help the country get longer-range anti-aircraft system.
Biden said that additional assistance also includes drones, 800 anti-aircraft systems, 9,000 anti armor systems and 7,000 small arms.
“It’s clearly helped Ukraine inflict dramatic losses on Russian forces,” Biden said, as he described an additional $800 million in assistance.
But Biden did not express support for a “no-fly” zone, as Zelensky has called for, or MiG fighter jets, amid concerns over escalating the war into a battle between Russia and the U.S. and NATO allies.
PREVIOUSLY: Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, in an unusual virtual speech to members of Congress, called for a humanitarian no-fly zone to protect the country from what he called Russian terror.
“This is a terror that Europe has not seen for 80 years and we are asking for an answer to this terror from the whole world,” Zelensky said in his speech to a packed auditorium at the Capitol and carried by broadcast and cable networks. “Is this a lot to ask for— to create a no-fly zone over Ukraine, to save people? Is this too much to ask? Humanitarian no-fly zone.”
“If this is too much to ask, we offer an alternative,” he added, calling for additional aircraft to protect the country.
Zelensky, the former comedian who, since the Russian invasion, has been relentless in his calls for help, in his refusal to leave the country and in his gift as a communicator in placing the war as a key moment in the history of democracies. To the gathered lawmakers, he compared Ukraine’s plight to that faced by the U.S. after Pearl Harbor and 9/11.
“Our country experiences the same every day…every night for three weeks now,” he said.
Zelensky also showed a graphic video designed to show lawmakers a before and after of the Russian onslaught, which he said has included 1,000 missile strikes. It featured footage of exploding buildings and other devastation, along with scenes of tearful refugees, severely injured young children and others and other carnage. Set to the searing strings of classical music, it ended with a call to “close the sky” over the country.
The White House and NATO allies have resisted a no fly zone over the country, warning of the potential escalation with Russia into a wider conflict. President Joe Biden will address the situation later on Wednesday at the White House.
Zelensky got a standing ovation at the end of his speech, when he said in English, “I am addressing President Biden. You are the leader of the nation. I wish you to be the leader of the world. Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace.”
After the speech, there was support among members of Congress for additional military support for Ukraine, but resistance for a no-fly zone. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) told CNN’s Manu Raju that “anytime you put American pilots and American planes in the sky with Russian pilots and planes in the sky you are really taking a chance that we may engage at a level that I don’t think we’re prepared” to take.
President Zelensky asks for a no fly zone: "Remember Pearl Harbor…remember September 11th…our country experiences the same every day. Right now, at this moment, every night…Russia has turned the Ukrainian sky into a source of death…" pic.twitter.com/9CsTNHdqnV
— CSPAN (@cspan) March 16, 2022
President Zelensky: "I'm addressing President Biden. You are the leader of the nation. I wish you to be the leader of the world. Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace." pic.twitter.com/6hnkG8Hyjm
— CSPAN (@cspan) March 16, 2022
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