An emotional Zelenskyi told the more than 300 participants in the call that this may be the last time they will see him alive. He attempted to directly link Russia’s war against Ukraine to European security, noting that Ukraine had 15 nuclear power plants and claiming that continued bloodshed could cause a nuclear catastrophe that would affect the entire continent.
“It will be Europe’s problem” if the US and NATO countries don’t take additional measures, Zelenskyy said through a translator, according to two of the participants. One of the sources described Zelenskyy’s request as a change in the way he communicates about the threat of a nuclear catastrophe.
Later in the conference call, Zelenskyy said that US and European sanctions – which have already effectively crippled Russia’s economy – should specifically target ordinary Russians, according to three of the participants. He said the Russian people must feel the pain of sanctions given how much Ukrainians are suffering, specifically mentioning banning Russians from Visa and Mastercard, a move that it is has already been set in motion.
After the Zoom meeting ended, lawmakers praised Zelenskyy and reiterated some of his calls for additional military support.
“President Zelenskyy has desperately asked Eastern European countries to provide Ukraine with Russian-made aircraft,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement. “These planes are urgently needed. And I will do everything in my power to help the administration facilitate their transfer.”
But Zelenskyy’s call for a no-fly zone has met with fierce opposition in the West, even from the most hawkish voices in Congress, because it would bring the US into direct military conflict with Russia. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), for example, recently said the establishment of a no-fly zone would trigger “World War III” because it would result in Russian planes being shot down by US and NATO allies.
Still, Zelenskyy has continued to push for such a move, arguing that it would help alleviate the suffering of the Ukrainian people. On Friday he said those who oppose a no-fly zone are “weak” and “unsafe”. According to attendees, that was the biggest question during his call with lawmakers on Saturday.
The Biden administration has also opposed a ban on Russian oil imports, despite growing bipartisan support for the idea. White House officials said imposing an embargo would reduce global oil supply and likely result in higher gas prices for Americans. According to American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, the US sourced three percent of its oil imports from Russia in 2021.
Almost all of the hundreds of participants in the call were lawmakers. One of them described Zelenskyy not as angry but as “measured in expressing his great appreciation” for what US and European allies have already done in support of Ukraine.
According to another person who answered the phone, Schumer told Zelenskyy he was “inspired by you and the strength and courage of the Ukrainian people.” He also vowed to work with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to meet the Biden administration’s recent call for $10 billion in military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, which is likely to materialize as early as next week.
In addition to Schumer and McConnell, Zelenskyy was joined by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Jeanne Shaheen (DN.H.), and Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio). Fitzpatrick joined the call from the Polish-Ukrainian border, where he is on a bipartisan congressional delegation trip.
Burgess Everett and Alexander Ward contributed to this report.
https://www.politico.com/news/2022/03/05/zelenskyy-plea-congress-aid-00014419?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication Zelenskyy’s emotional, direct Zoom plea to Congress: no-fly zone, Russian oil ban, more military aid