Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was met with multiple standing ovations when he gave an address to an assembly of the United States Congress Wednesday, calling for unity and new alliances.
Zelenskyy graciously received the admiration of the gathered legislators, appearing to humbly thank them before an official introduction had been given by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Pelosi drew attention to the Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova who also earned a standing ovation before formally beginning.
“Mr. President, it is my honor to present to you the Congress of the United States,” Pelosi began, “which has great respect and admiration and appreciation for your courageous leadership. Members of Congress, I have the high privilege and distinct honor of presenting to you the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy.”
“Slava Ukraini!” Pelosi concluded using the Ukrainian national salute which translates as “Glory to Ukraine!” After another standing ovation from Congress, Zelenskyy began his plea through a translator for the U.S. to increase its efforts in eastern Europe, including the implementation of a no-fly zone.
“Russia has turned the Ukrainian sky into a source of death for thousands of people…Is this a lot to ask for, to create a no-fly zone over Ukraine to save people?” Zelenskyy expressed as he reminded Congress of aerial attacks that America had suffered at Pearl Harbor and on September 11.
“Friends, Americans, in your great history, you have pages that would allow you to understand Ukrainians, understand us now, when we need you right now,” he said through a translator.
“Remember Pearl Harbor, terrible morning of December 7, 1941, when your sky was black from the planes attacking you,” Zelensky said. “Just remember it, remember, September the 11th, a terrible day in 2001 when evil tried to turn US cities into battlefields, when innocent people were attacked from air, just like nobody else expected it and you could not stop it. Our country experiences the same, every day, right now at this moment.”
The president acknowledged his request could be a bridge too far and so stated, “If this is too much to ask, we offer an alternative. You know what kind of defense systems we need.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was also invoked as he petitioned, “I have a dream. These words are known to each of you. Today, I can say I have a need. A need to protect our sky. I need your decision, your help, which means exactly the same. The same you feel when you hear the words, I have a dream.”
Zelenskyy expounded on the heavy toll the Russian invasion has had on Ukraine and emphasized that those attacks weren’t merely targeted against people and physical objects, but that they were “an offensive on [Ukrainian] values, human values, against [Ukrainian] freedom,” and the “right to live freely” in their own country with their own future.”
Calling for an expansion of sanctions to parties that have not cut ties with Putin’s aggression, Zelenskyy then suggested that this conflict calls for a new United Nations.
“We see it. You see it,” he said of the failings of old alliances to maintain peace. “So we need new ones, new institutions, new alliances…to create an association, United for Peace, a union of responsible countries that have the strength and consciousness to stop conflicts, immediately provide all the necessary assistance in 24 hours, if necessary – even weapons, if necessary, sanctions, humanitarian support, political support.”
“If such an alliance would exist today…we would be able to save thousands of lives in our country, in many countries of the world who need peace, those who suffer inhumane destruction,” he added.
In remarks specifically aimed at President Joe Biden, Zelenskyy suggested 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.”
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