Meeting with Congress, Zelensky asks for more jets
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine spoke with more than 300 members of Congress on Saturday, imploring them to ban the importation of Russian oil and to send more jets to his country, according to lawmakers on the call.
The meeting, conducted via Zoom, was the first time Zelensky had addressed both houses of Congress since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
During the call, Zelensky also reiterated one of his long-sought after demands: the imposition of a no-fly zone over Ukraine. Western governments have rebuffed the idea as all but impossible, citing the risk of direct conflict between Nato and Russian forces.
“He is standing strong, but pleaded for more help,” Representative Jim Himes, Democrat of Connecticut, said of Zelensky. “Planes, oil embargo, continued military aid.”
Zelensky told lawmakers that a ban on Russian oil would be “even more powerful” than removing some Russian banks from the SWIFT financial messaging system, according to Senator Dan Sullivan, Republican of Alaska. This past week, Republicans and Democrats ratcheted up pressure on the White House to prohibit the importation of Russian energy products, even though experts have said such a move would be largely symbolic.
Lawmakers have also been urging the administration to ship more military equipment to arm the Ukrainians, even after Biden last weekend authorised the shipment of a $350 million package of weapons to the country, a package that represented the largest single authorised transfer of arms from US military warehouses to another country.
On Saturday, Zelensky stressed the need for additional planes and drones in the absence of a Nato-led no-fly zone, lawmakers on the call said.
His plea came after Poland, Bulgaria and Slovakia said they would not send fighter jets to Ukraine. “Zelensky’s message is simple: ‘Close the skies or give us planes,’” Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, said in a statement after the meeting.