At the end of his remarks, Zelensky had an impassioned message for President Joe Biden, saying, “You are the leader of your great nation. I want you to be the ruler of the world. To be the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace.”
“America is leading this effort, along with our allies and partners, providing tremendous levels of security and humanitarian assistance that we are adding today and we will continue to do more in the days and weeks to come,” Biden said.
The speech featured a short video with harrowing scenes from the war-torn country graphically depicting the brutal and deadly toll of the Russian invasion. At the end, the screen read: “close the sky over Ukraine”.
Zelensky paid tribute to tragic moments in American history with his appeal.
“Friends, Americans, in your great history you have pages that would allow you to understand Ukrainians, to understand us now, when we need you at this time,” he said via a translator at the beginning of his speech, but at the end of his remarks he spoke in English.
“Remember Pearl Harbor, that terrible morning of December 7, 1941, when your skies were black from planes attacking you,” Zelensky said. “Remember, remember, 9/11, a terrible day in 2001 when evil tried to turn American cities into battlefields, when innocent people were attacked from the air like no one else expected it and you couldn’t stop it. Our country is going through the same, every day, right now right now.”
The speech sparked a new debate among lawmakers about what more the United States can do to help the country as it battles Russia.
While there is broad bipartisan support for Ukraine aid, many US lawmakers also believe the US should be careful not to be drawn into direct armed conflict with Russia.
Members on both sides of the aisle congratulated Zelensky after the speech ended and many agreed that the United States still had work to do to keep Ukraine safe, but most did not approve of the speech. call for a no-fly zone.
A number of Democrats pointed to what the Biden administration has already done to provide aid. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the speech “quite remarkable.”
“(We are) grateful that he was grateful to the United States for all that we have done and what President Biden has done,” she said.
Leaving the speech, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called it an “incredibly effective speech” but said “the message to President Biden is that he needs to step up his game.”
In his speech, Zelensky implored lawmakers to do more.
“Russia has turned Ukrainian skies into a source of death for thousands of people,” he said, describing the use of missiles, bombs and drones by Russian troops to inflict brutal and deadly attacks to his country. “We demand a response to this terror from around the world.”
“Is creating a no-fly zone over Ukraine to save people too much to ask?” he said. Zelensky went on to say: “You know how much depends on the battlefield, on the ability to use aircraft, powerful and powerful aviation to protect our people, our freedom, our land, aircraft that can help Ukraine, help Europe. You know they exist and you have them, but they are on Earth, not in Ukrainian skies.”
“I have to protect our skies,” he said.
Republicans have generally been more hawkish about giving Ukraine jets, but some Democrats — and the White House — worry Russia would view such a move as an escalation and potentially drag America into the war.
Some congressional lawmakers are pushing to add provisions to supply Ukraine with fighter jets to legislation targeting energy imports and Russia’s trade status, but it’s not yet clear what the fate of that effort will be. .
As Biden announced $800 million in additional security assistance for Ukraine on Wednesday, the president outlined a series of anti-aircraft and anti-armour systems, small arms and ammunition, and drones that the Administration swarmed the region to repel Russian attacks.
Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Zelensky’s virtual address in a letter to lawmakers earlier this week. The speech was broadcast live and live. Pelosi introduced Zelensky before his remarks began. Members of Congress gathered in an auditorium at the United States Capitol to watch the virtual speech. Zelensky said at the start of his speech that he was speaking from kyiv, the Ukrainian capital. “A city that suffers missiles and airstrikes from Russian troops every day, but does not give up,” he said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday that, despite Zelensky’s pleas, the White House does not support establishing a no-fly zone over Ukraine. nor the supply of new combat aircraft to the Ukrainian Air Force.
“I would note that [the Pentagon] stated that the addition of aircraft to the Ukrainian inventory is not likely to significantly change the effectiveness of the Ukrainian Air Force, compared to Russian capabilities,” Psaki said during the press conference on Tuesday. “And the assessment was that the transfer of these planes can be mistaken for escalation, as we said, and could lead to a significant Russian reaction, but it was the assessment of the risks that been made. This risk assessment has not changed.”
On a no-fly zone, Psaki said Biden “must look at decisions that are made through the lens of what is in our national security and global security interests, and he continues to believe that a no-fly zone air exclusion would be an escalation, could start a war with Russia.”
This story and headline were updated with additional developments on Wednesday.
CNN’s Ted Barrett, Ali Zaslav, Lauren Fox, Annie Grayer, Daniella Diaz, Kristin Wilson, Melanie Zanona, Jeremy Herb, Donald Judd and Kate Sullivan contributed to this report.