Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged American lawmakers to do more to protect his country from Russia’s invasion in an address to the U.S. Congress on Wednesday and pleaded with President Joe Biden to be the world’s “leader of peace.”
“Russia has turned the Ukrainian sky into a source of death for thousands of people,” Zelenskiy said in a virtual address before showing graphic video of death and destruction in his country that ended with an appeal to “close the sky over Ukraine.”
Ukraine is facing terror that Europe had not experienced since World War Two and the nation’s destiny is being decided, Zelenskiy said through an interpreter.
“Is this a lot to ask for – to create a no-fly zone over Ukraine to save people? Is this too much?” Zelenskiy asked in remarks from Kyiv, a capital city attacked every day that he said “doesn’t give up.”
Zelenskiy closed with a direct plea in English to Biden: “I wish you to be the leader of the world. Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace.”
He received standing ovations before and after his remarks.
Zelenskiy invoked American history, asking the lawmakers to remember the 1941 Japanese bombing of Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor, the 2001 al Qaeda attacks on the United States and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 “I have a dream” speech in Washington.
“I have a dream. These words are known to each of you today. I can say: I have a need. I need to protect our sky,” Zelenskiy said.
Democratic and Republican lawmakers said after the speech that they were ready to do more for Ukraine quickly by clamping down on Russia, providing more military aid including aircraft and tightening global human rights law. But they again rejected a no-fly zone, saying there was too great a risk of wider war with nuclear-armed Russia.
Biden and NATO also have opposed establishing a no-fly zone. The White House has not supported a proposal to help transfer Russian-made MiG warplanes into Ukraine, although that idea has some support in Congress – especially among opposition Republicans.
Zelenskiy said Ukraine is grateful to the United States for its overwhelming support and to Biden “for his personal involvement, for his sincere commitment to the defense of Ukraine and democracy all over the world.”