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Zelenskyy to US Congress: ‘We Need You Right Now’


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivers a virtual address to Congress by video at the Capitol in Washington, March 16, 2022. (Drew Angerer, Pool via AP)
Zelensky to US Congress: ‘We Need You Right Now’
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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked members of the United States Congress Wednesday to do more to help his country against the Russian invasion.

Wearing a military green T-shirt, he said, “We need you right now.”

The Ukrainian president delivered the speech to Congress over a video link. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced him with a cheer in Ukrainian “glory to Ukraine.” American lawmakers stood up for a time to cheer Zelenskyy at the start and at the end of his speech.

Zelenskyy said: "Remember Pearl Harbor, the terrible morning of December 7, 1941, when your sky was black from the planes attacking you. Just remember it. Remember September 11th, a terrible day in 2001 when evil tried to turn your cities, independent territories, into battlefields.”

He also used the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., saying: "I have a dream, these words are known to each of you today I can say. I have a need; I need to protect our sky.”

"Russia has turned the Ukrainian sky into a source of death for thousands of people," Zelenskyy said. And he showed a video with images of death and destruction that ended with the words “Close the sky over Ukraine.”

The Ukrainian president continued his appeal for what he describes as a “humanitarian no-fly zone.” But he offered “an alternative,” calling for air defense missile systems like the S-300. He also appealed for more warplanes and stronger economic measures against Russia.

Zelenskyy ended his speech with a direct appeal to American President Joe Biden. He spoke in English, “You are the leader of the nation, of your great nation. I wish you to be the leader of the world. Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace.”

In this photo released by the Ukrainian State Emergency Service press service, firefighters work to extinguish a fire at a market hit by shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 16, 2022. (Ukrainian State Emergency Service via AP)
In this photo released by the Ukrainian State Emergency Service press service, firefighters work to extinguish a fire at a market hit by shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 16, 2022. (Ukrainian State Emergency Service via AP)

Appeals to Western nations

Zelenskyy’s speech to the U.S. Congress followed similar appeals for help before the parliaments of Europe, Britain and Canada. Nearly two weeks ago, he also met over video with some U.S. lawmakers. At the time, he also asked for a no-fly zone, a term for closing the airspace over a country, and for more aircraft.

Speaking from the White House, Biden said Zelenskyy “speaks for a people who have shown remarkable courage and strength in the face of brutal aggression. Courage and strength that's inspired not only Ukrainians but the entire world."

The U.S. president then approved an additional $800 million in military assistance to Ukraine bringing the total to $1 billion this week. “We’re going to give Ukraine the arms to fight and defend themselves through all the difficult days ahead,” Biden said.

The new weapons, Biden said, include “800 anti-aircraft systems to make sure the Ukrainian military can continue to stop the planes and helicopters that have been attacking their people and to defend their Ukrainian airspace.”

The support does not include the no-fly zone that Zelenskyy had requested.

The Biden administration said earlier that it has sent hundreds of Stinger missiles, Javelin anti-tank systems, radar systems, machine guns and ammunition. Other military equipment included helicopters, boats, satellite imagery and personal protective gear.

Biden has said U.S. troops will not fight on the ground in Ukraine. He has also rejected the calls for a no-fly zone and additional warplanes as too risky. Such moves could bring the U.S. and NATO allies into a direct conflict with Russia: a nuclear power and a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

Hai Do wrote this story for VOA Learning English.

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Words in This Story

alternative –n. something that can be chosen instead of something else; a choice

courage –n. the ability to do something that you know is difficult or dangerous

brutal –adj. extremely cruel or harsh

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