On Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy directly addressed U.S. members of Congress for the first time since the Russian invasion of his country began, nearly three weeks ago.
In a virtual video call played to members of Congress in a conference hall, Zelenskyy repeated his appeal for the U.S. to support a no-fly zone over Ukraine. If members of Congress would not agree to a no-fly zone, Zelenskyy said Ukraine would accept transfers of aircraft and air-defense systems as an alternative.
“If this is too much to ask, we offer an alternative,” Zelenskyy said of his no-fly zone request, before requesting surface-to-air missile systems like the Russian-built S-300 or military aircraft to help secure Ukrainian airspace.
“We know that they exist and you have them,” Zelenskyy said, before adding, “I have a need. I need to protect our skies.”
Later in his remarks, Zelenskyy played a video with various clips and photos of civilian areas in Ukraine being hit with Russian attacks and Ukrainian civilians, including children, being injured and killed in the fighting.
Thus far, President Joe Biden has ruled out imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine, as well as a Polish proposal to transfer fighter jets to Ukraine.
In addition to his requests for a U.S.-backed no-fly zone or additional weapons to control Ukrainian airspace, Zelenskyy called for more sanctions and economic restrictions against Russia.
Zelenskyy said he is grateful for the support the U.S. has already offered to Ukraine, which has come in the form of man-portable anti-tank and anti-aircraft launchers, and sanctions that have already directly targeted Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“However now, it is true in the darkest time for our country, for the whole of Europe, I call on you to do more,” Zelenskyy said. “New packages of sanctions are needed constantly.”
Zelenskyy asked the U.S. to impose sanctions on all Russian politicians “who do not cut ties with those who are responsible for the aggression against Ukraine.”
Zelenskyy also asked lawmakers to pressure any U.S. businesses in their constituent districts to stop whatever business they have in Russian markets.
“If you have companies in your district who finance the Russian military machine by leaving business in Russia, I’m asking you to make sure that the Russians do not receive a single penny that they can use to destroy the people in Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said.
Zelenskyy also said “all American ports should be closed for Russian goods.” The request would go beyond the ban Biden imposed last week on imports of Russian oil and gas and now ban any other imports from Russia.
“Peace is more important than income and we have to defend this principle in the whole world,” Zelenskyy said.