Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday invoked the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and the Sept. 11 terror strikes on America as he pleaded directly with the U.S. Congress to send more aid to his embattled country to fight against Russia’s invasion.
Zelenskyy, who was greeted with at least three standing ovations from an audience of lawmakers, asked the U.S. to implement a no-fly zone over Ukraine to stem the Russian attacks, which have led to the deaths of thousands of people.
“This is a terror that Europe has not seen, has not seen for 80 years and we are asking for a reply, for an answer to this terror from the whole world,” said Zelenskyy, who during his speech played a video showing the bombing of Ukraine and wounded and dead civilians.
“Is this a lot to ask for, to create a no-fly zone over Ukraine to save people? Is this too much to ask?” he said via video link from the Ukrainian capital Kyiv.
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Zelenskyy acknowledged that Western leaders have resisted the idea of a no-fly zone, which would require NATO to take over the air and shoot down enemies to protect civilians on the ground. It’s been repeatedly rejected out of fears of triggering another world war.
“If this is too much to ask, we offer an alternative,” he said.
That included additional weapons and humanitarian support beyond what has already been granted to Ukraine, as well as even tougher sanctions on Russia and leading Russian supporters of that country’s president, Vladimir Putin, he said.
“Constantly, every week, until the Russian military machine stops, restrictions are needed for everyone on whom this unjust regime is based,” Zelenskyy said, referring to additional sanctions.
He also urged members of Congress to get companies in their legislative districts to leave the Russian market, “because it is flooded with our blood.”
“I call on you to do more,” he said.
Referring to President Joe Biden by name, Zelenskyy said he wanted his American counterpart to lead the world, not just the U.S., in the face of Russian aggression.
“Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace,” Zelenskyy said.
Biden is expected to announce hundreds of millions of dollars in additional aid to Ukraine later Wednesday.
Zelenskyy was introduced for his address by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
“Glory to heroes,” Pelosi said in Ukrainian before he began speaking.
Zelenskyy began by saying, “I’m proud to greet you from Ukraine from our capital 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. Just like many other cities, and communities in our beautiful country, which found themselves in the worst war since World War II,” he said.
Zelenskyy soon returned to that linkage with World War II after noting what he called America’s foundational tenets of “democracy, independence, freedom and care for everyone.”
“We in Ukraine want the same for our people,” he said. “All that is normal part of your own life.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, friends, Americans in your great history, you have pages that will allow you to understand Ukrainians. Understand us now, when you need it,” Zelenskyy said.
“Right now when we need you right now. Remember Pearl Harbor, [the] terrible morning of Dec. 7, 1941. When your sky was black from the planes attacking you,” he said.
“Just remember … September the 11th. A terrible day in 2001 when [al-Qaeda suicide squads] will try to turn your cities, independent territories into battlefields. When innocent people were attacked,” he said.
Just as the U.S. could not stop those attacks from the air on those days, Zelenskyy said, “our country experiences the same, every day, right now.”
“Russia has turned the Ukrainian sky into a source of death for thousands of people,” he said. “Russian troops have already fired nearly a thousand missiles at Ukraine. Countless bombs. They use drones to kill us with precision.”