Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky called on the United States for assistance in establishing a no-fly zone over Ukraine during a Zoom call with US lawmakers, according to a person familiar with the session.
Zelensky asked US senators for greater sanctions on Russia, including on energy, and for more military assistance directed to Ukrainian forces. He thanked the US for the support it has delivered so far, but his overall message was that his country needs more help as it strains against Russia’s invasion.
Another senator on the call said that Zelensky advocated for banning Russian oil imports, suspending all commercial transactions — like Visa and Mastercard — and implored the lawmakers to help Ukraine get more planes that Ukrainian pilots are trained in and can fly. He said they would do the fighting and flying, but he needs the aircraft.
The call, which started at about 9:30 a.m., ET, lasted an hour.
At the end of the call, dozens of lawmakers unmuted themselves to thank Zelensky and voice their support, with some saying “Slava Ukraini,” according to someone who was on the call who said the Ukrainian president was clearly moved by the gesture.
His message was delivered amid ongoing conversations between the US and European allies about the possibility of providing Ukraine with fighter jet aircrafts from Eastern European countries, five sources familiar with the discussions told CNN.
Officials say there is a divide among countries about whether or not individual nations should provide Ukraine aircraft, given the associated risks. The US and NATO oppose creating a no-fly zone in Ukraine — such a move, they have warned, could lead to “full-fledged war in Europe.” Russian President Vladimir Putin said Saturday that countries that impose such a no-fly zone would be considered to be participating in the conflict.