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Ukraine’s Zelenskyy pleads for more US help in virtual address to Congress

(WASHINGTON) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivered a historic, virtual address to Congress on Wednesday to plead with the U.S. to do more to help stop Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In a speech to Ukrainians earlier Wednesday, Zelenskyy called his upcoming address to Congress “a speech from all of us, from each of our defenders, from each of our citizens, for the most powerful democracy in the world — for the state and the people, who can do a lot to stop Russian aggression, to restore peace on our land,” he said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced the Ukrainian president and led members in chanting, “Slava Ukraini” or “Glory to heroes” in Ukrainian.

“Glory to heroes,” Zelenskyy repeated. “Thank you very much, madam speaker, members of the Congress, ladies and gentlemen, Americans, friends, I’m proud to greet you from Ukraine from our capital city of Kyiv, a city that is under missile and air strikes from Russian troops every day, but it doesn’t give up — and we have not even thought about it for a second.”

In an emotional appeal, Zelenskyy asked Americans to put themselves in the shoes of Ukrainians by remembering Pearl Harbor “when your sky was black from the planes attacking you” and the Sept. 11 attacks.

“Remember September the 11th, a terrible day in 2001 when evil tried to turn your cities, independent territories on battlefields, when innocent people were attacked from air, yes, just like no one else expected it, you could not stop it,” he said. “Our country experiences the same thing every day, right now at this moment, every night for three weeks now various Ukrainian cities — Mariupol and Kharkiv — Russia has turned the Ukrainian skies into a source of death for thousands of people.”

President Joe Biden would be watching Zelenskyy’s address to the degree his schedules allows, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, and will also give an address of his own afterward, detailing what the U.S. is doing for “Ukrainian security assistance.”

He gave something of a preemptive response in remarks to reporters on Tuesday while signing a $1.5 trillion government funding bill, which includes $13.6 billion in supplemental aid to Ukraine.

“We’ve been providing anti-armor — taking out tanks, anti-air capabilities, directly — directly to the Ukrainian forces. And we’re also facilitating significant shipments of security assistance from our Allied partners to Ukraine,” Biden said. “With this new security funding … we’re moving urgently to further augment the support to the brave people of Ukraine as they defend their country.”

While the U.S. has imposed a slate of economic and trade sanctions to isolate Putin, the Biden administration has flatly and repeatedly rejected a no-fly zone, as well as U.S. troops fighting Russia in Ukraine and any help delivering MiG-29 fighter jets that Poland wants to get to the Ukrainians. It’s also unclear whether Congress might try to move to act unilaterally if the White House doesn’t take more action.

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