Zelenskyy takes center stage: Facing Congress, begging for help | Politics

WASHINGTON (AP) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will address the U.S. Congress on Wednesday, the latest video stoppage of the actor-turned-warlord as he uses the West’s major legislative bodies as a global stage to orchestrate the support against the overwhelming Russian invasion.

Zelenskyy’s live-streamed address in the United States Capitol will be among the most important in a unique and very public strategy in his fight to stop Russia.

Invoking Winston Churchill and Hamlet last week, he asked the British House of Commons whether Ukraine should “be or not be”. On Tuesday, he appealed to “Dear Justin” as he addressed the Canadian Parliament and Prime Minister Trudeau. Appearing in his now iconic military green T-shirt, Zelenskyy called on European Union leaders at the start of the war to make politically unthinkable and fast-track Ukraine’s membership – and he continued to ask for more help. to save its fledgling democracy than world leaders have so far pledged to do.

“He was a man who showed leadership while keeping his composure in the most difficult of circumstances,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said of the speech to Europeans. “I have to say it had a huge impact on all the leaders.”

Approaching the three-week mark in an ever-escalating war, Zelenskyy has used his public campaign to help secure a global spotlight that may have faded amid the coronavirus pandemic and post-end fatigue. of the long American war in Afghanistan.

Instead, Zelenskyy’s video appearances beam the boyish but unshaven president into homes and smartphones around the world as he speaks from undisclosed locations in kyiv as Russia bombs his country, a heroic figure in the center of what many consider to be the greatest threat to European security. since World War II. Nearly 3 million refugees have fled Ukraine, the fastest exodus in modern times.

When Zelenskyy is broadcast live in the US Capitol, his speech could very likely put him at odds with President Joe Biden, who has stopped short of providing a no-fly zone or facilitating the transfer of military planes from neighboring Poland that Zelenksyy has been pleading since the outbreak of war.

Biden will deliver his own remarks after Zelenskyy’s speech in which the president will announce $800 million in additional security assistance to Ukraine, bringing the total announced last week to $1 billion, according to a House official Blanche familiar with the subject.

While officials anticipate that Zelenskyy could again call on the United States and the West to send fighter jets or help establish a no-fly zone, the Biden administration is seeking to send Ukraine “more what works well,” including anti-armour and air defense weapons, according to the official, who was not authorized to comment and spoke on condition of anonymity.

In total, Biden has authorized $2 billion in security for Ukraine since the start of his administration, making the United States by far the largest donor of security aid to the country, the official said.

Zelenskyy wants the West to ‘shut up the skies’ – a rallying cry now in pop culture – to prevent the Russian airstrikes that are devastating his country, perhaps most dramatically during last week’s attack on a maternity hospital. as pregnant women fled for their lives.

“I know he will ask for more help,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

Congress is ready to impose economic sanctions and beyond.

At first, the White House resisted calls from Congress to ban imports of Russian oil into the United States. Next, she held back on legislation to revoke Russia’s normal trade status – before moving forward on both. He rejected congressional efforts to shut down the Nord Stream 2 energy pipeline, then led his allies to shut it down.

Can Zelenskyy’s address generate more?

Biden “has a very hard line to toe here, and that’s nobody wants to start World War III,” Warren said. “You have to keep options on the table. Ukrainians are fighting for their lives, and they are also fighting for democracy all around.”

Biden insisted there would be no US troops on the ground in Ukraine and resisted Zelenskyy’s incessant calls for warplanes as too risky, potentially escalating into a direct confrontation with armed Russia. ‘nuclear weapons.

“The direct conflict between NATO and Russia is World War III,” Biden said.

The Pentagon has rejected an offer from NATO ally Poland to transfer its Soviet-era MiGs to a US base in Germany for transfer back to Ukraine. And US defense officials say they are intrigued by Zelenskyy’s request for more warplanes. They say Ukraine often doesn’t fly the planes it currently has, while making good use of the Stingers and other weapons the West provides.

Even though Zelenskyy and Biden speak to each other almost daily by phone, the Ukrainian president has found a potentially more receptive audience in Congress.

It will not be the first time he has appealed directly to members of the House and Senate, who have remained remarkably united in their support for Ukraine, with the feeling that they are committed to doing all that they can in the fight against Russia. . Nearly two weeks ago, Zelenskyy issued a desperate plea to some 300 lawmakers and staff in a private call that if they couldn’t enforce a no-fly zone, at least send more planes .

“We believe the United States needs to do more,” said Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., returning from a weekend visit with other lawmakers in Poland. “We must do what we can to facilitate the delivery of Russian-made MiGs to Ukrainian fighter pilots so they can fight this war themselves.”

Congress has already approved $13.6 billion in military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine, and the newly announced aid will come from that allocation, which is part of a larger bill Biden signed into law on Tuesday. But lawmakers expect more help will be needed.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Zelenskyy asked for help to rebuild his country during their conversation last week.

It was during this call that Zelenskyy asked for the opportunity to address the US Congress, which the Democratic leader readily accepted. Members of Ukraine’s congressional caucus supporting the country had previously demanded the same.

“Congress, our country and the world stand in awe of the people of Ukraine,” Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday in a statement announcing the speech.

They said Congress “remains steadfast in its commitment to support Ukraine in the face of Putin’s cruel and diabolical aggression.”

Zelenskyy’s next stop could be Spain. On Tuesday, the president of Spain’s Congress of Deputies invited the Ukrainian president to address Spanish lawmakers via video link.

In a letter to Zelenskyy, President Meritxell Batet wrote that the speech “will be a wonderful opportunity for the chamber, all Spaniards and the thousands of Ukrainians living in Spain to listen to your message and express our strongest support “.

Associated Press writers Aamer Madhani, Ellen Knickmeyer and Chris Megerian and Raf Casert in Brussels, Jill Lawless in London, Aritz Parra in Madrid and videojournalist Rick Gentilo contributed to this report.