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Zelensky calls for more US aid, calling for America’s darkest days

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Zelensky calls for more US aid, calling for America’s darkest days

WASHINGTON – Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday invoked the memory of America’s darkest days as he pleaded for more military aid to deal with Russia’s “inhuman destruction” of his country, directly addressing President Biden and members of Congress. to help by showing a horrifying video. Massacres in the cities of Ukraine.

Appearing before Congress by video link from Kyiv, Mr. Zelensky likened Russia’s three-week attack in Ukraine to Japan’s World War II airstrikes on Pearl Harbor, when “your sky is darkened by planes attacking you.” was,” and on September 11, when “innocent people were attacked, attacked from the air.” Dressed in an olive green T-shirt and sitting next to the flag of Ukraine, he urged the United States and its allies to fulfill a moral duty by imposing a no-fly zone on their country to block Russian attacks from the air.

“I call on you to do more,” Mr. Zelensky said, describing the ongoing conflict in Ukraine as an attack on the civilized nations of the world. Speaking directly to Mr Biden, he said: “I want you to be the leader of the world. To be a leader of the world means to be a leader of peace.”

Appeals and candid videos of people wounded and killed by Russian attacks left some lawmakers in tears and members of both sides on their feet to stand tall for the leader of the war. In his own remarks a few hours later, Mr. Biden praised Mr. Zelensky for displaying “remarkable courage and strength in the face of brutal aggression” and announced that the United States would soon launch $800 million worth of anti-aircraft and anti-aircraft weapons. -Armor will deliver missiles, grenades, rifles, body armor and more.

Mr Zelensky’s appeal in recent weeks, overshadowed by his emotional speech on Wednesday, has drawn bipartisan action from Mr Biden and members of Congress, including a nearly $14 billion aid package that includes aid for refugees, economic aid and billions of dollars. logistical support. Mr Biden signed that law on Tuesday.

But as Mr. Zelensky has increased the pressure by publicly harnessing a sense of anger and sadness about the consequences of Russia’s invasion, he tries to persuade Biden and most lawmakers to support his most pressing demands for help. Failed – Reach the fighter jet and attempt to close the skies over your land.

Mr Biden and his top military allies have rejected requests from Poland to help Ukraine acquire old Russian-made MIG fighter jets. US officials said the Pentagon had assessed they would do little well in Ukraine’s fight against Russia – and Russian President Vladimir V. May be used by Putin as an excuse to widen fighting in neighboring countries in Europe.

Mr. Zelensky’s speech immediately shook the United States and its allies’ resolve to avoid a direct military confrontation with Russia, which leaders of NATO countries believe could lead to a catastrophic global war with disastrous consequences. could.

In Brussels, NATO officials again categorically rejected the idea of ​​a no-fly zone over Ukraine, saying it would require the kind of military conflict with Russia they are trying to avoid. In Washington, Mr Biden made no mention of a no-fly zone, while he pledged to send more military aid.

“The American people are responding to President Zelensky’s call for more help, more weapons for Ukraine,” Mr Biden said. He also promised to help Ukraine acquire long-range anti-aircraft systems and munitions that could help defend the country’s cities against Russian fighters and bombers.

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“Putin is wreaking horrific, horrific devastation and terror on Ukraine,” Biden said. “Bombing on apartment buildings, maternity wards, hospitals. I mean, it’s god-awful.”

Asked about a question after attending an event later in the day, Mr Biden said of Mr Putin: “I think he is a war criminal.” It was the first time the administration had specifically accused a Russian president of war crimes over the invasion of Ukraine.

Mr Zelensky and Mr Biden made their speeches on Wednesday against the backdrop of more serious incidents in Ukraine, including shelling in Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv.

Ahead of Mr Biden’s eight-minute speech, the President’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, called on his Russian counterpart against “any possible Russian decision to use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine”, the White House said in a statement. warned.

The warning to Mr. Putin’s chief national security adviser Nikolai P. Petrushev reflected growing concerns in Washington that Russia could use weapons of mass destruction, hindering its hopes of a quick takeover of the country.

In his address to Congress, Mr. Zelensky appealed to the sentiments of both lawmakers and his belief in the United States as the leader of the free world. He thanked lawmakers for their support, but vehemently suggested that the United States had not yet fulfilled the country’s perceived moral duty to help protect democracies terrorized by violent authoritarians – including democracies who are outside his alliance.

He rev Dr. Borrowed a phrase from Martin Luther King Jr. – “I have a dream” – as he urged the United States to help fight Russian planes, saying “I need to defend the sky from Russian attacks.” is required” .

Speaking in English at the end of his speech, Mr. Zelensky said, “I see no meaning in life if it does not prevent deaths.”

Mr. Zelensky delivered his address through a translator in a packed movie-theater-style auditorium in the Capitol complex, calling it “the darkest time for our country” as he called on lawmakers for Ukraine before and after the Russian invasion. asked to see the images. Such clear views of the wreckage were rarely, if ever, shown in a foreign dignitary’s address to parliamentarians, and the effect was immediately apparent.

Seated in their seats during the address, several members of Congress could be seen wiping tears from their faces as they watched the dilapidated scenes of Ukraine. Mr. Zelensky’s defiance in the face of an unrelenting Russian attack has inspired lawmakers on both sides, eager to send aid to him.

Several lawmakers have pressured Mr Biden to do more to help Ukraine and punish Russia, often at times faster than the administration’s will. In his remarks, Mr Zelensky appeared to play that dynamic, as well as praising Mr Biden’s help, but saying it had fallen short.

“A few minutes ago, President Zelensky reminded us that the United States is truly the leader of the free world,” Senator Mitch McConnell, a Republican and minority leader from Kentucky, said in a speech from the Senate floor. “So now is the time for us to act like this.”

Congress last week approved a nearly $14 billion aid package for Ukraine, more than double the Biden administration’s original price tag, in an unusually swift and bipartisan performance. But faced with Mr. Zelensky’s emotional description of a terrorist nation, lawmakers emerged from his presentation on Wednesday showing no hesitation about sending him even more aid, in what is likely to become a messy debate. Which falls apart along party lines.

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While members of Congress generally agree that the United States should send more weapons to Ukraine, there remains deep disagreement about exactly what would be appropriate to provide.

Some of Mr. Zelensky’s requests, such as enforcing a no-fly zone, have been rejected by the Biden administration and NATO allies. Others are being considered more seriously by Republicans and Democrats in Congress, including providing Ukraine with advanced antimissile systems and drones.

And several lawmakers on both sides continue to call for help to move MIG fighter jets from the United States to Ukraine, despite questions about whether the country’s air force can also fly the planes and whether Russia will relocate. Will see it as a quick step.

Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, referring to Javelin, said, “They need more javelin, they need more gunpowder, they need more Stingers, they need surface-to-air missiles, they need More airplanes are needed, they need everything.” Anti-tank missiles and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles.

“Zelensky has the courage of his beliefs,” said Mr. Sasse. “The question he asked Congress and the United States government is this: Will we have our guts? We are a superpower. We must behave like it.”

After many in Congress called on the White House to come behind the transfer of MIG fighters from Poland to Ukraine, the White House pushed back again.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday that since the planes would take off from NATO airports, those bases could become targets for Russian retaliation, potentially pulling NATO forces into battle. On Wednesday, it built on that argument, saying that because the jets were capable of making it to attack Russia, they could be considered offensive weapons.

The Biden administration insists that the long-range antiaircraft systems being transferred to Ukraine are purely defensive in nature. But it is not clear whether the Russians would consider them as such, as both antiaircraft systems and MIG fighters can shoot down Russian aircraft.

Privately, some administrative officials acknowledged that the distinction is a narrow one and it is unclear whether Russians would consider the anti-aircraft battery defensive.

Senator Chris Koons, a Democrat from Delaware, said Zelensky “made an incredibly compelling case that Putin will stop only if we stop him.” But he added a note of restraint, giving voice to a calculation that top administration officials have weighed in private.

“It’s really just a fundamental question of how much risk we are willing to take,” Mr Koons said.

The public and often partisan debate over what weapons to send to Ukraine has clearly angered some Biden allies. Senator Christopher S. Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, said public discussion is reaching a state of absurdity.

Murphy said, “For us telegraphing Russia every day what kind of defensive support Ukraine should be getting, and telegraphing them exactly what weapons systems we’re transferring, I don’t know if that’s helpful. ” “It’s a strange way to prosecute a war.”

Despite divisions among lawmakers, Mr Biden sought to make it clear that the United States was united in its support of Ukraine.

“No doubt, no uncertainty, no question,” he said. “America stands with the forces of freedom. We always have, we always will be.”

Jonathan Weisman, Emily Cochran And David E. Sanger Contributed to reporting.

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