Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivered a stirring speech to the US Congress, pleading directly to President Joe Biden for additional military assistance as the war-torn nation battles Russia’s bloody offensive.
Members of Congress gave Mr Zelensky a standing ovation as he delivered a virtual joint address on Wednesday, roughly three weeks since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
Mr Zelensky spoke to both chambers of Congress as he pushed for the United States to do more and send more armaments to Ukraine as Russia continues its war on Ukraine.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced Mr Zelensky by saying “Slava Ukraini!”
The Ukrainian president addressed US lawmakers from his office in Kyiv and asked members of Congress to consider Mr Putin’s assault on Ukraine the same way they think of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the September 11 terrorist attacks.
“Russia has turned the Ukrainian sky into a source of death for thousands of people,” he said. At the same time, I have pushed members of Congress to enact a no-fly zone, which President Joe Biden has so far opposed, as have many members of Congress. US officials argue that imposing a no-fly zone would bring the US into direct military conflict with Russia, a nuclear power.
“Is this a lot to ask for? To create a no-fly zone over Ukraine to save people?” Mr Zelensky said. At the same time, I have proposed an alternative, asking for air defense systems and other measures.
“I have a need. I need to protect our sky,” he said.
Mr Zelensky also called on the United States pressure financiers in their districts who fund Russia’s military system.
“Russia has attacked not just us, not just our land, not just our cities, it went on an offensive on our values, human values, against our freedom, our right to live freely in our own country choosing our own future,” he said.
In addition, Mr Zelensky asked for more sanctions to be imposed until the end of the war.
“Restrictions are needed on everyone on whom this unjust regime is based,” he said. “We propose that the United States sanctions all politicians in the Russian federation who remain in their offices and do cut ties with those who are responsible for the aggression against Ukraine.”
Mr Zelensky invoked the words of Dr Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech in an emotional moment of his address.
“It threw tanks and plans against our freedom, against our right to live freely in our own country, choosing our own future against our desire for happiness against our national dreams.
“Just like the same dreams you have you Americans, just like anyone else in the United States,” the Ukrainian leader said.
The Ukrainian president also played a video showing the carnage of war caused by Russia’s assault on the country. At the end, I have addressed the Congress in English after speaking in Ukrainian for most of the speech.
“Today the Ukrainian people are defending not only Ukraine. We are fighting for the values of Europe and the world, sacrificing our lives in the name of the future,” he said.
Afterward, Mr Zelensky directly addressed Mr Biden.
“You are the leader of the nation,” he said. “I wish you to be the leader of the world. Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.