Zelenskyy pleads for more US help in speech to Congress
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy summoned the memory of Pearl Harbor and the Sept. 11 terror attacks Wednesday in an impassioned video plea to Congress to send more help for Ukraine’s fight against Russia. Lawmakers stood and cheered, and President Joe Biden later announced the U.S. is sending more anti-aircraft and anti-armor weapons and drones.
Biden also declared Russian President Vladimir Putin is a war criminal, the day after the Senate unanimously asked an international investigation of Putin for war crimes in Ukraine.
In a moment of high drama at the Capitol, Zelenskyy livestreamed his speech to a rapt audience of lawmakers on a giant screen, acknowledging from the start that the no-fly zone he has repeatedly sought to “close the sky” to airstrikes on his country may not happen. Biden has resisted that, as well as approval for the U.S. or NATO to send MiG fighter jets from Poland as risking wider war with nuclear-armed Putin.
Instead, Zelenskyy pleaded for other military aid and more drastic economic sanctions to stop the Russian assault with the fate of his country at stake.
Wearing his now trademark army green T-shirt, Zelinskyy began the remarks to “Americans, friends” by invoking the destruction the U.S. suffered in 1941 when Japan bombed the naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, and the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon by militants who commandeered passenger airplanes to crash into the symbols of Western democracy and economy.
“Remember Pearl Harbor? ... Remember September 11?” Zelenzkyy asked. “Our countries experience the same every day right now.”
Biden, who said he listened to Zelenskyy’s speech at the White House, did not directly respond the the criticism that the U.S. should be doing more for the Ukrainians. But he said, “We are united in our abhorrence of Putin’s depraved onslaught, and we’re going to continue to have their backs as they fight for their freedom, their democracy, their very survival.”
Later, leaving an unrelated event, he declared of Putin: “He’s a war criminal.” — the sharpest condemnation yet of Putin and Russian actions by a U.S. official since the invasion of Ukraine.
While other world leaders have used the words, the White House had been hesitant, saying it was a legal term that required research.
Biden noted that Russia had bombed hospitals and held doctors hostage.
At the White Hose, Biden described new help he was already prepared to announce before Zelenskyy’s speech. He said the U.S. will be sending an additional $800 million in military assistance, making a total of $2 billion in such aid ince he took office more than a year ago. About $1 billion in aid has been sent in the past week. Biden said the new assistance includes 800 Stinger anti-aircraft systems, 100 grenade launchers, 20 million rounds of small arms ammunition and grenade launchers and mortar rounds and an unspecified number of drones.
“We’re going to give Ukraine the arms to fight and defend themselves through all the difficult days ahead,” Biden said.
Zelenskyy, in his Capitol livestream from Kyiv, showed the packed auditorium of lawmakers a graphic video of the destruction and devastation his country has suffered in the war, along with heartbreaking scenes of civilian casualties.
“We need you right now,” Zelenskyy said. “I call on you to do more.”