Zelensky calls for more weapons and a no-fly zone in meeting with Congress

WASHINGTON — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke to more than 300 members of Congress on Saturday, imploring them to ban the im...


WASHINGTON — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke to more than 300 members of Congress on Saturday, imploring them to ban the import of Russian oil and send more jets to his country, according to lawmakers during the the call.

The meeting, made through Zoomwas the first time Mr Zelensky had addressed both houses of Congress since Russia invaded Ukraine.

During the call, Mr. Zelensky became defiant, according to call lawmakers. He told lawmakers this might be the last they would see him alive, echoing comments he made last month during a call with European Union leaders.

Mr. Zelensky reiterated a list of his longstanding demands, including the imposition of a no-fly zone over Ukraine. Western governments dismissed the idea as nearly impossible, citing the risk of direct conflict between NATO and Russian forces.

“He’s holding on, but pleaded for more help,” Rep. Jim Himes, a Connecticut Democrat, said of Mr. Zelensky. “Planes, oil embargo, continued military aid.”

Mr Zelensky told lawmakers that a ban on Russian oil would be “even more powerful” than removing some Russian banks from the SWIFT financial messaging system, according to Senator Dan Sullivan, Republican of Alaska. Last week, Republicans and Democrats rise in pressure on the White House to ban the import of Russian energy products, even though experts have said that such a decision be largely symbolic.

Lawmakers also urged the administration to ship more military equipment to arm Ukrainians, even after Mr. Biden last weekend authorized the shipment of a $350 million arms package to the country, a package that represented the largest arms transfer authorized from US military warehouses to another country.

On Saturday, Zelensky stressed the need for additional planes and drones in the absence of a NATO-led no-fly zone, lawmakers said on the call. His call came after Poland, Bulgaria and Slovakia said they would not send fighter planes to Ukraine.

“Zelensky’s message is simple: ‘Close the skies or give us airplanes,'” Sen. Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, said in a statement after the meeting. “Let’s be clear about our options: A no-fly zone means sending American pilots into battle against Russian jets and air defenses – in a battle between nuclear powers that could quickly spin out of control.”

Mr. Sasse added that the United States “should absolutely send planes, helicopters and drones”, or unmanned aerial vehicles, to the Ukrainians.

In an interview after the call, Rep. Tom Malinowski, Democrat of New Jersey, suggested Congress quickly approve funding to reimburse Eastern European allies if they supply Ukraine with planes — or more likely, he said, surface-to-air missiles.

“We should signal to Poles, Romanians and others that this is something we would like to help them do,” Malinowski said.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and Majority Leader, promised Mr. Zelensky during the call that he and Sen. Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and Minority Leader, were working “very hard in a bipartisan way to quickly approve the $10 billion Ukraine aid package that the Biden administration asked last week.

“President Zelensky has made a desperate appeal to Eastern European countries to supply Russian-made aircraft to Ukraine,” Schumer said in a statement. “These planes are very necessary. And I will do my best to help the administration facilitate their transfer.

During the call, Zelensky also called on Western governments to impose additional sanctions on Russia. And as an aside, he said he believed Russia would not have invaded Ukraine if the sanctions recently imposed by the Biden administration and European governments had been enacted in the fall, according to two people familiar with the comments. .



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Newsrust - US Top News: Zelensky calls for more weapons and a no-fly zone in meeting with Congress
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