Latest on President Zelensky and Ukraine-Russia

From The Poynter Report with Tom Jones:

The reaction to President Zelensky’s address to U.S. leaders

For 16 gripping minutes, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking from somewhere inside a country being bombarded by Russia, addressed the United States Congress on Wednesday morning

He showed haunting images of what Ukraine used to look like when it was vibrant and what it looks like now after three weeks of being pummeled by bombs and tanks. The images included buildings being destroyed, explosions, crying children and dead bodies. Words appeared on the video: “This is a murder.”

He cited the type of assaults Americans can understand: Pearl Harbor and 9/11, and said this is what his country is experiencing … every day.

“In your great history,” he said, “you have pages that would allow you to understand the Ukrainian history. Understand us now.”

He quoted the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.

He asked the United States for more help in protecting his country and ending the war. He asked for NATO to invoke a no-fly zone.

And, as he closed, he had a plea for one person in particular.

“And this is my main mission as the leader of my people, brave Ukrainians, and as the leader of my nation, I’m addressing the President Biden,” Zelensky said. “You are the leader of the nation, of your great nation. I wish you to be the leader of the world. Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace.”

Then he closed the compelling address by saying, “Thank you. Slava Ukrayini,” which means, “Glory to Ukraine.”

Immediately and in unison, the U.S. Congress rose to their feet to give Zelensky a standing ovation for his powerful speech and fearless leadership.

CNN contributor David Axelrod tweeted that Zelesnky’s speech was “brilliant.” The Washington Post’s Philip Bump tweeted that it was “powerful.”

Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst, a combat veteran, told reporters, “It makes me want to throw on my uniform and go help.”

CNN’s Stephen Collinson wrote, “His masterful political conceit, on display in his address to the US Congress on Wednesday, is designed to frame the war not as a confusing and far-off dispute bound up in the confusing history of greater Russia but as everybody’s war.”

Collinson added, “He is effectively putting those leaders on personal notice that his fate, those of his people and the continued existence of Ukraine will live on their conscience — and depends on their willingness to defend the principles for which they speak and on which their democracies rest.”

And Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin might have said it best when she wrote, “Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s virtual address to a joint gathering of Congress provided the sort of passion, drama and heartbreaking pleas we have come to expect from the unlikely international symbol of democracy.”

This wasn’t Zelensky’s first time addressing leaders from other countries. He has made similar speeches to the European Parliament, Britain’s House of Commons and the Canadian Parliament.

The Los Angeles Times’ Laura King wrote, “Much is made of Zelensky’s former career as a comedian and an actor — playing a president on TV, no less — but these wartime weeks have showcased a leader who appears remarkably skilled, even from a distance of thousands of miles, at reading the room. He has an everyman’s earnestness and a charisma that pops; he is beleaguered but not bowed.”

King added, “The president’s wartime speeches are notable for their displays of raw emotion, but at the same time, he is capable of evoking piteous scenes without asking for pity.”

Biden’s response

While Zelensky’s stirring speech drew praise and respect — including from U.S. lawmakers and President Joe Biden — Zelensky’s request for a no-fly zone has, so far, been resisted.

However, Biden announced just hours after Zelesnky’s speech that he will activate $800 million more in security assistance, as well as laying out new military help, which is to include anti-aircraft and anti-armor systems, weapons and drones to fight off Russian attacks.

Biden said, “We’re going to continue to have their backs as they fight for their freedom and democracy.”

Later, Biden called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal.” Biden told reporters, “We saw reports that Russian forces were holding hundreds of doctors and patients hostage in the largest hospital in Mariupol. These are atrocities. They’re an outrage to the world. And the world is united in our support for Ukraine and our determination to make Putin pay a very heavy price.”

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