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What did President Zelensky say in his address to Congress?

The Ukrainian president spoke to Congressmen and women via video link on Wednesday, urging them for more support.

In this handout picture taken by the Ukrainian Presidency Press Office and released early on March 16, 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivers a video address in Kyiv.
Ukrainian Presidential Press Service / HandoutAFP

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine gave a virtual address to the United States Congress on Wednesday, like he did in Canada yesterday and the UK last week.

Earlier this month Zelenskyy addressed the European Parliament, calling on foreign powers to offer greater assistance to help support Ukraine’s defence of its territory, as well as calling for a no-fly zone over Ukraine. So far, NATO has been resolute in refusing the request as it would mean in practice multiple nuclear-armed countries at war.

Let's take a look at what the Ukrainian president called for, as well as some reaction from those who witnessed it.

What did Zelenskyy actually say?

"Russia has turned the Ukrainian sky into a source of death for thousands of people," Zelenskyy said as he described the use of missiles, bombs and drones by Russian troops to inflict brutal and deadly attacks on his country. "We are asking for a reply to this terror from the whole world."

"To create a no-fly zone over Ukraine to save people, is this too much to ask?" he said. Zelenskyy went on to say, "You know how much depends on the battlefield, on the ability to use aircraft, powerful strong aviation to protect our people, our freedom, our land, aircraft that can help Ukraine, help Europe. You know they exist and you have them, but they are on Earth not in the Ukrainian sky."

"I need to protect our sky," he said. He echoed previous US disasters; the 9/11 attacks and the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour in 1941, the beginning of the American involvement in the Second World War.

"Peace in your country no longer depends only on you and your people. It depends on those next to you, on those who are strong. Strong doesn't mean big. Strong is brave and ready to fight for the life of his citizens and citizens of the world", he said, "President Biden, you are the leader of your nation. I [hope] you will be the leader of the world. Being the leader of the world means being the leader of peace."

What was the reaction?

There is broad agreement that the US can do more to help Ukraine, but not at the level Zelenskyy wants. $800 million of extra armament support is expected to pass through Congress Wednesday evening. In the past year, $1.2 billion of arms has already been sent from the US to Ukraine.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the US was "unwavering in our commitment to the people of Ukraine as they courageously defend democracy" in a tweet after the speech.

In what has been seen as a concession from Ukraine, Zelenskyy said the sending of fighter jets and anti-aircraft weapons to Ukraine would be a good substitute for a no-fly zone. The US already prevented Poland from giving jets to Ukraine last week, and remains unlikely at this stage to provide such weapons to Ukraine.


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