Ukraine President Zelensky Asks for Help Protecting Its Air Space, Military Assistance and Stronger Sanctions

From the New York Times by Catie Edmondson:

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine made an urgent and emotional appeal to Congress on Wednesday to come to his country’s aid as it fights off a brutal Russian invasion, asking help protecting its air space, military assistance and stronger sanctions as part of what he cast as a war for the cause of democracy itself.

In a remarkably direct appeal by a wartime leader to policymakers in Washington, Mr. Zelensky addressed lawmakers on a large screen in a movie theater-style auditorium under the Capitol, invoking the memories of Pearl Harbor and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — when the United States came under attack — as he pleaded for support saying, “we need you right now.”

In remarks translated from Ukrainian, he said starkly: “I call on you to do more.”

Wearing a green T-shirt and seated next to a Ukrainian flag, Mr. Zelensky tailored his remarks to Americans and those who represent them, borrowing a phrase from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — “I have a dream” — as he asked for a no-fly zone over his country. “I have a need” to protect the sky, he said.

That request had little chance of being approved, given that it would thrust American pilots into direct confrontation with the Russians, and Mr. Zelensky quickly pivoted to something to which Republicans and Democrats have been far more receptive: asking for more weapons to enable his people to keep up the fight themselves.

He also asked lawmakers to get companies in their states and districts to send aid directly to Ukraine if they could.

Mr. Zelensky, whose background is in the entertainment industry, wrapped up his 18-minute speech with a graphic and wrenching video showing images of his war-torn country, including bombs exploding in cities around Ukraine, and civilians bloodied and killed by Russian attacks.

He concluded by speaking in English, calling upon the United States to take up what he portrayed as an obligation, given its place on the world stage to intervene in the conflict.

“To be the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace,” he said, as members of Congress grew visibly emotional.

As he addressed them directly, lawmakers sat rapt in their seats. Some scribbled notes, taking down quotations from his address, and many sniffled back tears.

“There was a collective holding of the breath,” said Senator Angus King, independent of Maine.

Here are some other major developments:

  • Mr. Biden plans to detail an additional $800 million in security assistance to Ukraine after Mr. Zelensky’s speech to Congress, according to White House officials. Among Ukraine’s requests are more antiaircraft batteries that would enable the Ukrainian military to harass and shoot down Russian cargo planes and fighter jets.

  • Ukrainian forces were launching a counteroffensive in Kyiv and the southern city of Kherson, aiming to inflict severe losses on Russian forces, officials said.

  • Virtual talks between Ukrainian and Russian representatives were scheduled to take place for a third straight day, the longest round of negotiations over a cease-fire in the three weeks since Russia’s invasion began. Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, said on Wednesday that there was “a certain hope that a compromise can be reached,” and issues on the table included an agreement that Ukraine not join NATO.

  • At least 500 civilians have been killed in the Russian shelling of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, since the start of the war, the city’s emergency services agency said on Wednesday.

  • NATO defense ministers were meeting to discuss enhancing defenses along their eastern front as Russia’s attacks inch closer to the alliance’s doorstep. The meeting comes before next week’s extraordinary NATO summit, where Mr. Biden is scheduled to discuss how to respond to Russia’s invasion.

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