WASHINGTON — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy summoned the memory of Pearl Harbor and the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on Wednesday as he appealed to the U.S. Congress to do more to help Ukraine’s fight against Russia. But he acknowledged the no-fly zone he has sought to “close the sky” to the Russians over his country may not happen.
Livestreamed into the Capitol complex, Zelenskyy said the U.S. must sanction Russian lawmakers and block imports. But rather than an enforced no-fly zone, he instead sought other military aid to stop Russian airstrikes.
For the first time in a public address to world leaders, he showed a packed auditorium of lawmakers a graphic video of the destruction and devastation his country has suffered in the war, along with heartbreaking scenes of civilian casualties.
“We need you right now,” Zelenskyy said. “I call on you to do more.”
Lawmakers gave him a standing ovation, before and after his short remarks, which Zelenskyy began in Ukrainian through an interpreter but then switched to English in a heartfelt appeal to help end the bloodshed.
“I see no sense in life if it cannot stop the deaths,” he said.
Nearing the three-week mark in an ever-escalating war, Zelenskyy has used the global stage to implore allied leaders to help stop the Russian invasion of his country. The actor-turned-president often draws from history, giving weight to his appearances.
President Joe Biden’s administration has stopped short of providing a no-fly zone or the transfer of military jets from neighboring Poland as the U.S. seeks to avoid a direct confrontation with Russia.
Biden was to deliver his own address following Zelenskyy’s speech, and was expected to announce an additional $800 million in security assistance to Ukraine, according to a White House official. That would bring the total announced in the past week alone to $1 billion. It includes money for anti-armor and air defense weapons, according to the official, who was not authorized to comment publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Zelenskyy has emerged as a heroic figure at the center of what many view as the biggest security threat to Europe since World War II. Almost 3 million refugees have fled Ukraine, the fastest exodus in modern times.
Wearing his now trademark army green T-shirt, Zelinskyy began the remarks to his “American friends” by invoking the destruction the U.S. suffered in 1941 when Japan bombed the naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, and the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon by militants who commandeered passenger airplanes to crash into the symbols of Western democracy and economy.
“Remember Pearl Harbor? … Remember September 11?” Zelenzkyy asked. “Our countries experience the same every day right now.”
The U.S. Congress has remain remarkably unified in its support of Ukraine and lawmakers emerged steadfast in their resolve.
Sen. Angus King, the Maine independent. said there was a “collective holding of the breath” in the room during Zelenskyy’s address. Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said, “If you did not look at that video and feel there is an obligation for not only the United States but but the free countries of the world to come together in support of Ukraine, you had your eyes closed.” Majority Whip Dick Durbin called the address heartbreaking and said, “I’m on board with a blank check on sanctions, just whatever we can do to stop this Russian advance.”
Slovakia Could Give Defense System to Ukraine
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy mentioned the S-300s by name when he spoke to U.S. lawmakers by video Wednesday, appealing for anti-air systems that would allow Ukraine to “close the skies” to Russian warplanes and missiles.
Slovak Defense Ministry spokesperson Martina Koval Kakascikova said Slovaks expect the issue to be on the agenda when Austin comes to Bratislava for talks.
Slovakia has no objections to providing its S-300s to Ukraine, she said. “But we can’t get rid of a system that protects our air space if we don’t have any replacement.”
The S-300s use long-range missiles that are capable of flying hundreds of miles and knocking down cruise missiles as well as warplanes. The Soviet-era anti-air defense systems could be valuable in thwarting Russian air attacks on cities and other targets.
U.S. President Joe Biden said Wednesday that the U.S. would help provide long-range air defense systems to Ukraine, but gave no details. U.S. officials had no comment on any S-300 swap. Three NATO members — Slovakia, Greece, and Bulgaria — are reported to have S-300s.
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UN’s Top Court Orders Russia to Halt Invasion
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The United Nations’ top court ordered Russia to stop hostilities in Ukraine on Wednesday, granting measures requested by Kyiv, but many are skeptical that Russia will comply.
Ukraine asked the International Court of Justice, also known as the World Court, to intervene two weeks ago, arguing Russia violated the 1948 Genocide Convention by falsely accusing Ukraine of committing genocide and using that as a pretext for the ongoing invasion.
The court’s president, U.S. judge Joan E. Donoghue, demanded that “the Russian Federation shall immediately suspend the special military operations it commenced on Feb. 24.”
Following the news, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tweeted: “Ukraine gained a complete victory in its case against Russia at the International Court of Justice. The ICJ ordered to immediately stop the invasion. The order is binding under international law. Russia must comply immediately. Ignoring the order will isolate Russia even further.”
NATO Leader Rules Out No-Fly Zone
BRUSSELS — NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has categorically ruled out any role for the military organization in setting up and policing a no-fly zone over Ukraine to protect against Russian airstrikes.
Stoltenberg says “NATO should not deploy forces on the ground or in the air space over Ukraine because we have a responsibility to ensure that this conflict, this war, doesn’t escalate beyond Ukraine.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly appealed for NATO to set up a no-fly zone given Russia’s air superiority, as civilian casualties mount three weeks into the war.
Speaking Wednesday after chairing a meeting of NATO defense ministers, Stoltenberg conceded that “we see human suffering in Ukraine, but this can become even worse if NATO (takes) actions that actually turned this into a full-fledged war between NATO and Russia.”
He says the decision not to send air or ground forces into Ukraine is “the united position from NATO allies.” Earlier Wednesday, Estonia urged its 29 NATO partners to consider setting up a no-fly zone.
Soccer Club Pledges $1.1 Million for Aide
MADRID — Real Madrid says it will donate 1 million euros ($1.1 million) for humanitarian aid for the war victims in Ukraine.
The Spanish soccer club said Wednesday that the money will be used by its own charity foundation which “works alongside the main international NGOs” including the Red Cross and UNHCR, among others. The aid will go to fund relief projects both inside Ukraine and in neighboring countries to help refugees.
The club added that it will also donate 13,000 items of clothing and sporting goods to the Spanish Red Cross and other charity-run centers in Madrid for refugees coming to Spain.
81,000 Refugees in Bulgaria
SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgaria is beefing up its refugee registration system by opening additional border points where documents are issued to Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion.
According to the latest government figures, more than 81,000 Ukrainian citizens have entered Bulgaria through the border crossings since the war broke out, and almost half of them have said that they want to stay in the Balkan country.
After initial registration, refugees are accommodated with families or in apartments provided by NGOs and local communities.
Bulgaria, which is the European Union’s poorest member, is facing a serious demographic crisis as its population has shrunk from almost nine million in 1989 to 6.5 million now, mainly due to a massive west-bound emigration.
In the wake of the current refugee influx, Bulgarian employers in the IT, tourism, and construction sectors have offered to hire tens of thousands of Ukrainians.
Bulgaria is also concerned over the safety of some 200,000 ethnic Bulgarians, most of whom have been living for over a century mainly in the southern Ukrainian region of Odesa.
Injured Fox News Reports Exits Ukraine
NEW YORK — Fox News reporter Benjamin Hall, who was seriously injured in the wartime incident that killed two colleagues on Monday, is out of Ukraine, the network said on Wednesday.
“Ben is alert and in good spirits,” said Suzanne Scott, Fox News Media CEO, in a memo to staff. “He is being treated with the best possible care in the world and we are in close contact with his wife and family.”
Fox video journalist Pierre Zakrzewski and Oleksandra “Sasha” Kuvshynova, a Ukrainian journalist working with the Fox crew, were both killed when their vehicle was struck by incoming fire in Horenka, outside of Kyiv. Hall survived the blast.
The network offered no other details of Hall’s whereabouts or his condition.
US and Russian Officials Talk About War
WASHINGTON — White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan and Gen. Nikolay Patrushev, secretary of the Russian Security Council, spoke by phone on Wednesday, the highest level engagement between the U.S. and Russia since the invasion nearly three weeks ago.
Sullivan warned Patrushev “about the consequences and implications of any possible Russian decision to use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine,” according to national security council spokesperson Emily Horne. The White House last week accused China of spreading Russian disinformation that could be a pretext for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces to attack Ukraine with chemical or biological weapons.
Patrushev spoke of “the need to stop Washington’s support for neo-Nazis and terrorists in Ukraine and to facilitate the transfer of foreign mercenaries to the conflict zone, as well as to refuse to continue supplying weapons to the Kyiv regime,” council spokesman Yevgeny Anoshin said.
The call marked the highest-level conversation between the two sides since the invasion began.
Lower-level interactions between two sides have been ongoing, with the embassies in Moscow and Washington passing messages, much as they do with their missions at the United Nations. Those exchanges have been largely confined to informing the other side of diplomatic expulsions.
Putin Assails War Critics
Russian President Vladimir Putin charged Wednesday that the West is trying to divide Russia through “the fifth column” and “national traitors,” apparently referring to Kremlin critics.
”(The West) now, once again, wants to repeat the attempt to squeeze us, to put pressure on us, to turn us into a weak dependent country, to violate (our) territorial integrity, to dismember, in the best way for them, Russia. It didn’t work out then, and it won’t work out now,” Putin said in a long emotional speech, opening a video conference meeting with government officials. “Of course, they will bet on the so-called ‘fifth column,’ national traitors, those who earn money here, but live there.”
The Russian leader juxtaposed “our people” to Russians who “have a villa in Miami or on the French Riviera, those who can’t go by without foiе gras, oysters or so-called gender freedoms.”
Said Putin: “That’s not the problem, the problem is that many of those people, by their very nature, are mentally there. They are not here. Not with our people. Not with Russia.”
War Crimes Investigation
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor Karim Khan traveled to Ukraine on Wednesday and had a surprise virtual linkup with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to discuss the court’s ongoing war crimes investigation.
“I was pleased to hold important exchanges with the President while in the country; we agreed all efforts are needed to ensure international humanitarian law is respected and to protect the civilian population,” Khan said in a statement following the virtual meeting.
The court opened an investigation into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity two weeks ago, following a record-breaking number of referrals from other signatories to the Rome Statute, which created the court in 2002. Investigators traveled to Ukraine last week to begin collecting evidence.
Ukraine is not a member of the court but gave the court jurisdiction over crimes on its territory in 2014 after the Russian-backed government was removed following a popular uprising. As the Russian Federation is also not a party to the court, it has no jurisdiction over the invasion itself but could indict people from either country for committing war crimes.
Kyiv has alleged widespread human rights abuses by Russia, including the use of cluster bombs against civilians and attacking hospitals and schools.
Putin Deplores Economic Sanctions
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that the operation in Ukraine is unfolding “successfully, in strict accordance with pre-approved plans” and decried Western sanctions against Russia, describing them as “aggression and war with economic, political, information means.”
At the same time, Putin said that the West has failed to wage “an economic blitzkrieg” against Russia.
“In effect, these steps are aimed at worsening the lives of millions of people,” Putin said of the sanctions that have delivered a crippling blow to Russia’s economy.
“One should clearly understand that the new set of sanctions and restrictions against us would have followed in any case, I want to emphasize this. Our military operation in Ukraine is just a pretext for the next sanctions,” Putin told a government meeting Wednesday.
Turkish Official Calls for End to War
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called for an end to the “bloodshed and tears” from the conflict in Ukraine during a joint news conference with his Russian counterpart.
Speaking after a meeting with Sergey Lavrov in Moscow on Wednesday, Cavusoglu also called for an immediate cease-fire for the besieged city of Mariupol to allow the evacuation of stranded civilians, including Turkish citizens.
“This state of events must come to an end, the bloodshed and tears must be stopped now,” Cavusoglu said. “There can be no winners in war and no losers in peace.”
Cavusoglu is visiting Moscow as Turkey — a NATO member — has maintained close ties to both Ukraine and Russia, positioning itself as a mediator between the two sides. He is scheduled to travel to Ukraine on Thursday.
Dozens of Turkish nationals and others have been sheltering inside a mosque in Mariupol, seeking refuge from the Russian attack on the encircled port.
Cavusoglu said Turkey has so far evacuated more than 15,000 of its citizens from Ukraine.
Russian Warships Spotted Near Japan
TOKYO — Japan’s Defense Ministry says it has spotted Russian warships crossing a strait in northern Japan this week as Russia’s maritime activity in the area has escalated.
The ministry said Wednesday that it has also spotted an unmanned Chinese aircraft BZK-007 violating Japanese Defense Identification Zone over the East China Sea, causing the Air Self-Defense Force to scramble fighter jets and conduct surveillance activity.
China and Russia have stepped up their military collaboration recently, causing concerns in Japan about escalating tension in East Asia.
A pair of Russian tank-landing ships crossed the Tsugaru Strait between Aomori on the northern end of Japan’s main island and Hokkaido on Tuesday night, and another pair of tank carriers were spotted in similar waters Wednesday. The ships moved west to the Sea of Japan.
Larger fleets of Russian warships have been repeatedly seen in northern Japanese waters in recent months.
Czech Leader Say Ukraine Needs More Weapons
PRAGUE — The Czech Republic’s Prime Minister, Petr Fiala, who visited the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv together with his Polish and Slovenian counterparts, said the Ukrainians urgently need weapons to have a chance to face the invading Russian troops.
“Ukraine these days and weeks needs above all arms supply,“ Fiala said on Wednesday at a Prague airport after returning from Tuesday’s visit.
He said such supplies have to be delivered quickly by as many countries as possible and have to be massive.
It must be done in days,“ Fiala said.
“We have to realize that (the Ukrainians) do also fight for our independence, for our freedom and we have to support them. That’s the reason why we traveled there, to show them they’re not alone.“
Russia Expelled From Human Rights Group
STRASBOURG, France — The Council of Europe has expelled Russia from the continent’s foremost human rights body in an unprecedented move over its invasion and war in Ukraine.
The ministerial committee of the 47-nation organization said in statement Wednesday that “the Russian Federation ceases to be a member of the Council of Europe as from today, after 26 years of membership.”
The decision comes on the heels of weeks of condemnation of Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Earlier this week, the group’s parliamentary assembly already initiated the process of expulsion and unanimously supported Russia’s expulsion.
Italy Freezes Oligarch’s Real Estate
ROME — Italy has frozen 4 million euros ($4.4 million) in Sardinian real estate belonging to Petr Aven, classified by the European Union as “one of Vladimir Putin’s closest oligarchs.”
A statement from Premier Mario Draghi’s office Wednesday said the Sassari building complex was frozen March 15.
It was the latest in a series of confiscations of Russian oligarch-owned yachts, villas and other holdings in Italy following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the imposition of EU sanctions on Putin and members of his inner circle.
According to the European Union Council decision sanctioning Russian oligarchs, Aven regularly meets with Putin and “does not operate independently of the president’s demands.” It identified him as an important shareholder of the Alfa Group, which includes the Russian Alfa Bank.