‘Close the sky over Ukraine’: Zelenskyy pleads to US Congress

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has asked the United States Congress for a no-fly zone and more sanctions in his latest public appeal for help as Russians continue their invasion that has killed thousands and pushed more than three million refugees into Eastern Europe.

“We need you right now. I call on you to do more,” Zelenskyy said on Wednesday, addressing the US Congress by video from Kyiv.

Zelenskyy thanked the US for the aid it has already provided and praised President Joe Biden for “his personal involvement for his sincere commitment to the defence of Ukraine and democracy all over the world”.

Biden has approved $13.6bn in military and financial support for Ukraine, but not the military jets and no-fly zone that Zelenskyy has been calling for. The White House has said those actions would be seen as a military escalation and the US does not want to be drawn into the war.

“If this is too much to ask,” the Ukrainian leader said of the no-fly zone, “we offer an alternative. You know what kind of defence systems we need.”

Later on Wednesday, Biden announced the US would provide an additional $800m in security assistance to Ukraine to help the country defend against Russia’s invasion.

The package includes 800 anti-aircraft systems “to stop the planes and helicopters” firing on the Ukrainian people, Biden told reporters, as well as thousands of shoulder-mounted missiles, machine guns, grenade launchers, and other equipment, including drones.

“This could be a long and difficult battle, but the American people will be steadfast in our support for the people of Ukraine in the face of Putin’s immoral, unethical attacks on civilian populations,” Biden said. “We’re going to give Ukraine the arms to fight and defend themselves through all the difficult days ahead.”

In his address to Congress, Zelenskyy also had urged US lawmakers to broaden the economic and political sanctions the US has imposed on Russia.

He asked that the US sanction all Russian politicians who do not cut ties with those responsible for the aggression in Ukraine and close all its ports to Russian goods. He also urged US companies to leave the Russian market “because it is flooded with our blood”.

The Ukrainian president’s appearance before the US Congress followed ones before the British House of Commons and the Parliament of Canada, where he made similar appeals for more military support and a no-fly zone.

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