In his remarks to Congress on Wednesday morning, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on the United States to help establish a “humanitarian no-fly zone” over Ukraine, telling lawmakers that doing so would prevent Russian President Vladimir Putin from being “able to terrorize our free cities.”
“Russia has turned the Ukrainian sky into a source of death for thousands of people,” Zelensky said.
The Biden administration has resisted the idea of a no-fly zone, arguing that imposing one could lead the United States into direct combat with Russia.
“Is this a lot to ask for, to create a no-fly zone over Ukraine to save people? Is this too much to ask? A humanitarian no-fly zone is something that [means] Russia would not be able to terrorize our free cities. If this is too much to ask, we offer an alternative.”
Listing alternatives, Zelensky added: “You know what kind of defense systems we need — S-300 and other similar systems,” a reference to surface-to-air missiles. “You know how much depends on the battlefield on the ability to use aircraft — powerful, strong aviation — to protect our people, our freedom, our land. Aircraft that can help Ukraine, help Europe.”
He added: “And you know that they exist and you have them, but they are on earth, not in the Ukrainian sky. They do not defend our people.”
Humanitarian, or limited, no-fly zones are generally interpreted to mean providing protection for humanitarian corridors negotiated by Ukraine and Russia to evacuate civilians from besieged cities and to send in food, medicines and other basic supplies.
In making his appeal, Zelensky also invoked the words of Martin Luther King Jr.
“‘I have a dream.’ These words are known to each of you,” Zelensky said. “Today, I can say, ‘I have a need. I need to protect our sky.’”
Olivier Knox contributed to this report.