President Zelensky’s Speech to Congress - Transcript and Youtube Link
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine addressed a joint meeting of the House and Senate to press his case for more aid to Ukraine amid devastating attacks by Russia.
Here's the link to the Youtube Video:
WASHINGTON — President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine made an urgent and searing appeal to Congress on Wednesday to come to his country’s aid as it fights off a devastating Russian invasion, casting the war as a battle for the cause of democracy itself.
Using stark, often stern language, Mr. Zelensky delivered a remarkably direct call to action by a wartime leader, as he made the case that aiding Ukraine was a moral imperative for a country that has promoted itself as the beacon of freedom and democracy for the world.
Mr. Zelensky mostly spoke through an interpreter as he addressed lawmakers on a large screen in a movie theater-style auditorium under the Capitol. Wearing his standard military-issue green T-shirt and seated next to a Ukrainian flag, he briefly stopped his remarks to show lawmakers a graphic and wrenching video featuring images of his war-torn country, including bombs exploding in cities, and civilians, including young children, bloodied and killed by Russian attacks.
Here is a transcript of Mr. Zelensky’s remarks, with additional context on key passages:
Glory to heroes. Thank you very much. Madam Speaker, members of the Congress, ladies and gentlemen, Americans, friends, I am proud to greet you from Ukraine, from our capital city of Kyiv, a city that is under missile and airstrikes 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 honor to greet you on behalf of the Ukrainian people, brave 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 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 normal part of your own life.
Zelensky invoked American traumas to bolster his case
Ladies and gentlemen, friends, Americans, in your great history, you have pages that would allow you to understand Ukrainians, understand us now when we need you, right now. Remember Pearl Harbor, terrible morning of Dec. 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, in battlefields, when innocent people were attacked, attacked from air, yes. Just like no one else expected it, you could not stop it.
Mr. Zelensky sought to place his country’s moment of peril in historical context for members of Congress by recalling two events that are seared in the American consciousness, drawing specific parallels to times the United States was assaulted by air, as Ukraine is now. It is a strategy that he has turned to often in recent weeks as he works to rally support for his cause amid the Russian onslaught.
When Mr. Zelensky spoke before Britain’s House of Commons last week, he invoked Winston Churchill, likening the Russian attacks on Ukraine to England’s “darkest hour” during World War II.
The comparisons are aimed at illustrating the stakes of the conflict for Ukraine, and to persuade policymakers around the globe that they should regard it as among the gravest challenges that the world has faced.
Our country experience the same every day., Right now at this moment, every night for three weeks now, various Ukrainian cities, Odessa and Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Sumy, Zhytomyr and Lviv, Mariupol and Dnipro, Russia has turned the Ukrainian sky into a source of death for thousands of people. Russian troops have already fired nearly 1,000 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, something that Russia would not be able to terrorize our free cities? If this is too much to ask, we offer an alternative.
‘I have a dream.’ A freighted request for a no-fly zone.
You know what kind of defense 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. I 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.’
A key request that Mr. Zelensky has brought up repeatedly is for American support to close the skies over Ukraine. He has also pleaded with NATO allies to impose a no-fly zone — a move the allies have said would essentially begin World War III — but has been rebuffed.
In the speech, he grounded his plea for such measures in the language of the American civil rights movement and a famous speech by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., effectively comparing his struggle to protect his nation to the fight for racial justice in the United States.
Knowing that America would not answer that particular call, Mr. Zelensky instead pivoted, asking for powerful antimissile defense systems, such as the S-300. Ukrainian officials have also requested armed drones and communication equipment, which the United States has not yet provided. Washington has sent other arms to Kyiv, including antiaircraft Stinger missiles and antitank Javelin missiles. The Biden administration earlier this month sent a $350 million package of arms and equipment to Ukraine, and on Wednesday, it announced an additional $800 million tranche.
Mr. Zelensky has previously requested that the United States help facilitate the transfer of Polish MIG fighter planes, but noticeably did not name them on Wednesday, after the Biden administration rejected the request.
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.
He bluntly asked for help: ‘I call on you to do more.’
I am grateful to President Biden for his personal involvement, for his sincere commitment to the defense of Ukraine and democracy all over the world. I am grateful to you for the resolution which recognizes 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 constantly, every week, until the Russian military machine stops. Restrictions are needed for everyone on whom this unjust regime is based.
Mr. Zelensky is trying to strike a balance between expressing gratitude for the military and humanitarian support Ukraine has received from the United States — including a $13.6 billion package approved by Congress last week and signed into law by Mr. Biden on Tuesday — and making clear that it is not enough. He is also playing on a fraught dynamic between the White House and Congress.
For weeks now, lawmakers in both parties have pressed the Biden administration to take more aggressive steps to help Kyiv and counter Moscow, including imposing a ban on Russian oil and gas and sending more aid. In his speech, Mr. Zelensky essentially sided with members of Congress who have called for a more robust American effort, trying to prod Mr. Biden to step up his response.
He called for sanctions to be imposed on “all politicians in the Russian Federation” and said additional packages of sanctions should be approved “every week.”
Most Republicans and Democrats have been more than happy to rush aid to Kyiv, with their moral outrage at the situation in Ukraine eclipsing any qualms they might have about the cost or effectiveness of certain measures. Mr. Zelensky’s call to action appeared to have resonated with lawmakers, who emerged from his address pledging to send even more money and weapons.
We propose that the United States sanctions all politicians in the Russian Federation who remain in their offices and do not cut ties with those who are responsible for the aggression against Ukraine, from State Duma’s members to the last official who has lack of morale to break this state terror. All Americans’ company 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 districts who finance the Russian military machine in Russia, you should put pressure. I’m asking to make sure that the Russians do not receive a single penny that they use to destroy people in Ukraine.
The destruction of our country, the destruction of Europe. All American ports should be closed for Russian goods. We — peace is more important than income and we have to defend this principle in the whole world. We already became part of the antiwar coalition — a big antiwar coalition that unites many countries, dozens of countries, those who reacted too 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 24th. 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. The war of the past have 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, U-24, United for Peace, a union of responsible countries that have the strength and consciousness to stop conflicts immediately, 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 association, such union could provide assistance to those who are experiencing natural disasters, man-made disasters, who fell victims to humanitarian crisis, or epidemics.
Remember how difficult it was for the world to do the simplest thing? Just to give 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 alliance would exist today that is U-24, we would be able to save thousands of lives in our country, in many countries of the world.
Those who need peace, those who suffer inhumane destruction. I ask you to watch one video — video of what 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.
[After video plays, Mr. Zelensky resumes his speech in English.]
Zelensky cast U.S. support as a moral imperative.
And in the end, to sum it up, today — today it’s 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 to be 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 and 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 decently, and to die when your time comes, and not when it’s wanted by someone else, by your neighbor.
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