Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke to the United States Congress on Wednesday, thanking its members for the support the US has offered his country and asking for more.
The Ukrainian leader called on US President Joe Biden to be a leader for peace. He repeated calls for a no-fly zone over Ukraine, but failing that asked for more defence systems. He also called for continued and widening sanctions to include any Russian politician supporting the invasion of Ukraine, for the US to close ports to Russian goods, and US businesses to leave Russia.
Here is what Zelenskyy said, via a translator:
“Good morning. Good morning, Mr President. Good morning, Madam Ambassador, who was with us this morning, Madam Ambassador.
Glory to heroes. Thank you very much, Madam Speaker, members of Congress, ladies and gentlemen. Americans, friends, I’m proud to greet you from Ukraine, from our capital city of Kyiv – a city that is under missiles and air strikes from Russian troops, every day. But it doesn’t give up and we have not even thought about it for a second, just like many other cities and communities in our beautiful country, which found themselves in the worst war since World War II.
I have the honour to greet you on behalf of the Ukrainian people, great and freedom-loving people who for eight years have been resisting the Russian aggression, those who give their best sons and daughters to stop this full-scale Russian invasion.
Right now, the destiny of our country is being decided, the destiny of our people, whether Ukrainians will be free, whether they will be able to preserve their democracy.
Russia has attacked not just us, not just our land, not just our cities. It went on a brutal offensive against our values, basic human values. It threw tanks and planes against our freedom, against our right to live freely in our own country, choosing our own future. Against our desire for happiness, against our national dreams, just like the same dreams you have, you Americans – just like anyone else in the United States.
I remember your national memorial in [Mount] Rushmore, the faces of your prominent presidents, those who laid the foundation of the United States of America as it is today: democracy independence, freedom, and care for everyone, for every person, for everyone who works diligently, who lives honestly, who respects the law. We in Ukraine want the same for our people, all that is [a] normal part of your own life.
Ladies and gentlemen, friends, Americans, in your great history, you have pages that allow you to understand the Ukrainians. Understand us now, when we need it. We need you right now.
Remember Pearl Harbor – the terrible morning December 7, 1941 when your sky was black from the planes attacking you. Just remember it. Remember September the 11th, a terrible day in 2001 when evil tried to turn your cities, independent territories, into battlefields. When innocent people were attacked. Attacked from the air. Yes. Just like nobody else expected it, you could not stop it. Our country experienced the same every day. Right now, at this moment, every night for three weeks now.
Russian troops have already fired nearly one thousand missiles at Ukraine. Countless bombs. They use drones to kill us with precision.
This is a terror that Europe has not seen, has not seen for 80 years and we are asking for a reply, for an answer to this terror from the whole world. Is this a lot to ask for? To create a no-fly zone over Ukraine to save people? Is this too much to ask?
Humanitarian no-fly zone is something that … Russia would not be able to terrorise our cities.
If this is too much to ask, we offer an alternative. You know what kind of defence systems we need; S-300 and other similar systems. 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. 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.
‘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’.
Ladies and gentlemen, friends, Ukraine is grateful to the United States for its overwhelming support, for everything that your government and your people have done for us, for weapons and ammunition, for training, for finances, for leadership in the free world which helps us to pressure the aggressor economically.
I’m grateful to President Biden for his personal involvement, for his sincere commitment to the defence of Ukraine and democracy all over the world. I am grateful to you for the resolution which recognises all those who commit crimes against Ukraine, against the Ukrainian people as war criminals.
However, now, it is true, in the darkest time for our country, for the whole of Europe, I call on you to do more.
New packages of sanctions are needed, constant, every week, until the Russian military machine stops. Restrictions are needed for everyone on whom this unjust regime is based.
We propose that the United States sanction all politicians in the Russian Federation who remain in their offices and do not cut ties with those who are responsible for their aggression against Ukraine. From state Duma members, to the last official who has a lack of morale to break this state terror.
All Americans’ companies must leave Russia from their market, leave their market immediately because it is flooded with our blood.
Ladies and gentlemen, members of Congress, please take the lead if you have companies in your district who finance [the] Russian military machine, leaving business in Russia. You should put pressure.
I am asking to make sure that the Russians do not receive a single penny, that they use to destroy our people in Ukraine, the destruction of our country, the destruction of Europe. All American ports should be closed for Russian goods. Peace is more important than income. And we have to defend this principle in the whole world.
We already became part of the anti-war coalition, the big anti-war coalition that unites many countries, dozens of countries, those who reacted to, in principle to President Putin’s decision to invade our country. But we need to move on and do more.
We need to create new tools to respond quickly and stop the war, the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24. And it would be fair if it ended in a day, in 24 hours, that evil would be punished immediately.
Today, the world does not have such tools. That war of the past has prompted our predecessors to create institutions that should protect us from war. But they unfortunately don’t work. We see it. You see it. So, we need new ones, new institutions, new alliances, and we offer them.
We propose to create an association, U24, united for peace, a union of responsible countries that have the strength and consciousness to stop conflict immediately, to provide all the necessary assistance in 24 hours. If necessary, even weapons. If necessary, sanctions, humanitarian support, political support, finances – everything you need to keep the peace and quickly save the world, to save lives.
In addition, such an association, such a union could provide assistance to those who are experiencing natural disasters, man-made disasters, who fell victims to humanitarian crisis or epidemic. Remember how difficult it was for the world to do the simplest things? Just a few vaccines, vaccines against COVID to save lives, to prevent new strains. The world spent months, years doing things like that much faster, to make sure there are no human losses, no victims.
Ladies and gentlemen, Americans, if such an alliance would exist today … we would be able to save thousands of lives in our country, in many countries around the world, those who need peace, those who suffer inhumane destruction.
I ask you to watch one video, video what of the Russian troops did in our country, in our land. We have to stop it. We must prevent it. Preventively destroy every single aggressor who seeks to subjugate other nations. Please watch the video.
[Plays graphic video showing bombed buildings and bodies of civilians.]
Zelenskyy speaking in English:
“And in the end, to sum it up: Today, today, it is not enough to be the leader [of] the nation. Today [it] takes to be the leader of the world. Being the leader of the world means being the leader of peace.
Peace in your country doesn’t depend anymore only on you and your people. It depends on those next to you, on those who are strong. Strong doesn’t mean big. Strong is brave and ready to fight for the life of his citizens, and citizens of the world, for human rights, for freedom, for the right to live peacefully and to die when your time comes, and not when it’s wanted by someone else, by your neighbour.
Today, the Ukrainian people are defending not only Ukraine, we are fighting for the values of Europe, and the world, sacrificing our lives in the name of the future. That’s why today, the American people are helping not just Ukraine, but Europe, and the world to keep the planet alive. To keep justice in history.
Now, I’m almost 45 years old. Today my age stopped when the hearts of more than 100 children stopped beating. I see no sense in life, if it cannot stop the deaths. And this is my main issue as the leader of my people, brave Ukrainians. And as the leader of my nation, I’m addressing to President Biden: 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. Thank you. Glory to Ukraine.”
[Applause by US members of Congress]