Invoking Pearl Harbor and 9/11, Zelenskyy Issues Extraordinary Plea for Help

Addressing Congress, he reiterated his call for a no-fly zone but also suggested alternatives, such as military aid.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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In an unprecedented video address from the besieged capital of Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pleaded with Congress to help his country by protecting Ukraine’s air space, supplying it with weapons and equipment, and imposing stronger sanctions on Russia. 

Zelenskyy reiterated his call for the United States and NATO to implement a “no-fly zone” over Ukraine. Invoking Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, the Ukrainian president told lawmakers, “Today, I can say I have a need, I need to protect our skies.”

However, he also seemed to acknowledge that the possibility of a no-fly zone was unlikely, given that it would essentially bring American pilots into direct conflict with the Russian air force and violate one of Putin’s red lines, courting the possibility of widespread war within Europe or even the exchange of nuclear weapons. 

“If this is too much to ask, we offer an alternative,” Zelenskyy said, going on to request “powerful, strong aircraft” to protect Ukrainian land. He also urged legislators to send aid directly to Ukraine and to ensure that companies in their districts withdrew from the Russian market. 

During his speech, Zelenskyy urged Americans to recall the panic sparked by the attack on Pearl Harbor and the September 11 terrorist attacks. “Our country experienced the same every day,” he said. “Right now. At this moment, every night for three weeks now.”

To conclude, Zelenskyy switched from Ukrainian to English, calling directly on President Joe Biden to become the “leader of the world.” 

“Being the leader of the world means being the leader of peace,” he said. 

Watch Zelenskyy’s full speech here.

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