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Friday, May 27, 2022

“Russia turned the sky into a fountain of death”

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It’s a rare time in Washington. As the assembled members of the United States Congress rise from their blue velvet chairs to applaud their hero, a picture of unity is sent to the world that has not been seen in a long time.

With the words “Slava Ukraina” (Glory to Ukraine), the Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, opens the session. This Wednesday it seems that there are no Democrats or Americans, only US parliamentarians and senators who support Ukraine and its president

Volodymyr Zelenskyj has brought with him a clear desire for his first virtual appearance before both houses of the United States Congress. The United States must establish and enforce a humanitarian no-fly zone over Ukraine, he says, a demand that US President Joe Biden has so far rejected, warning of a third world war.

Zelenskyj demands more sanctions

If that doesn’t happen, Zelenskyy goes on to say, then the Americans should at least provide their country with more aircraft and anti-aircraft systems so that it can better defend itself against Russian attackers. More sanctions would also have to be imposed to put even more pressure on Russia.

[Jeden Donnerstag die wichtigsten Entwicklungen aus Amerika direkt ins Postfach – mit dem Newsletter „Washington Weekly“ unserer USA-Korrespondentin Juliane Schäuble. Hier geht es zur kostenlosen Anmeldung.]

“Constant new sanctions packages are needed every week until the Russian military machine grinds to a halt.” There should be sanctions against “all” Russian politicians, members of parliament and senior officials who are not opposed to the war.

The Ukrainian president speaks mainly in English.

It is an emotional speech that Selenskyj gives. Much of it in English and in an olive green T-shirt, he is not just addressing members of the Senate and House of Representatives from encircled kyiv, who have gathered for technical reasons in the auditorium of the congress visitor center.

It also addresses the American people and President Biden directly. Major US broadcasters broadcast live. Americans are also enthusiastic about how Zelenskyj is leading their country’s resistance.

[Alle aktuellen Entwicklungen im Ukraine-Krieg können Sie hier in unserem Newsblog verfolgen.]

“Today it is not enough to be the leader of a country. Today you have to be the leader of the world. When you are the leader of the world, you are the leader of peace,” she says. Y: The fate of Ukraine is currently being decided, but much more is at stake. It is also about Europe and the world.

It reminds Americans of Pearl Harbor and 9/11.

“Russia has turned the skies over Ukraine into a source of death for thousands of people,” says Zelenskyy. And he reminds Americans of their own national traumas: the attacks on Pearl Harbor and 9/11. “Our country is going through the same thing every day right now.”

[Alle aktuellen Nachrichten zum russischen Angriff auf die Ukraine bekommen Sie mit der Tagesspiegel-App live auf ihr Handy. Hier für Apple- und Android-Geräte herunterladen]

There is dead silence in the hallway. Selenskyj then shows a video about the daily horror of the war that has been unfolding for three weeks. Images of shocked children, murdered civilians, and bombed-out houses run across the big screen to dramatic music. Reporters present speak of members of Congress wiping away tears. At the end of the short clip, the words “Close the sky” appear.

More about the Ukrainian war on Tagesspiegel Plus:

Surprisingly, what Zelenskyy does not mention are the ongoing ceasefire negotiations with Russia. He also does not talk about his country’s possible entry into NATO, which Russian President Vladimir Putin used as a pretext for his invasion. Only the day before, Selenskyj had stated that he had understood that this was probably not an option. But he makes it clear that Ukraine wants more and needs more support from the West.

Selenskyj ends his speech with the phrase: “Glory to Ukraine”, again the senators and deputies unanimously stand up and applaud him. Party lines are only visible once this morning: when Zelenskyy thanks Biden for his support so far.

Since the beginning of last year, the US government has provided Ukraine with about $1.2 billion in military aid and weapons supplies, including $550 million since the Russian invasion began.

Biden announces another $800 million in military aid

A few hours after Zelenskyj’s speech, the US president reacted. He appears before the press in the South Court Auditorium of the White House, along with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Chief of Staff Mark Milley and Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks.

Biden thanks Ukraine’s president for his “impassioned speech” and announces an additional $800 million in military aid, including anti-aircraft weapons and combat drones. However, he doesn’t say a word about Selenskyj’s greatest wish, not even when journalists call out to him when they ask him about his speech.

This makes it clear that the US maintains its negative attitude towards a no-fly zone. Not even Zelenskyj’s impassioned appeal can change that.

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