WASHINGTON D.C. (WHTM/AP) — Midstate lawmakers are speaking out and supporting sending more aid to Ukraine after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for more support in an address to Congress on Wednesday.
“It’s an absolute disaster occurring before our eyes and we have to do everything we can to mitigate it and help them beat back this Putin invasion,” said Representative Dan Meuser (R) of the Pa. 9th Congressional District.
Get daily news, weather, breaking news and alerts straight to your inbox! Sign up for the abc27 newsletters here.
Zelenskyy live-streamed his speech to a rapt audience of lawmakers on a giant screen, acknowledging from the start that the no-fly zone he has repeatedly sought to “close the sky” to airstrikes on his country may not happen. Biden has resisted that, as well as approval for the U.S. or NATO to send MiG fighter jets from Poland as risking wider war with nuclear-armed Putin.
Instead, Zelenskyy pleaded for other military aid and more drastic economic sanctions to stop the Russian assault with the fate of his country at stake.
“I think we need tougher sanctions, we need to have an impact on Putin on his energy supplies by no longer any of those in the United States. I think we need to supply additional military lethal aid to protect the forces that are there and I think finally we need to show leadership,” Representative John Joyce (R) of the PA 13th Congressional District said.
Wearing his now-trademark army green T-shirt, Zelinskyy began his remarks to “Americans, 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?” Zelenskyy asked. “Our country experiences the same every day right now.”
To halt the carnage, Zelenskyy told the American lawmakers: “I call on you to do more.”
“Congress has a role to play. We’re very close to the edge of war. It’s certainly happening in Ukraine. We have a voice in this and this should not be unilateral decisions made by the president,” Representative Scott Perry (R) of the Pa. 13th Congressional District
Rrepesentive Scott Perry says there have been conversations in Congress for weeks over what they could do to help.
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 young actor-turned-president 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 as the violence has spread, the fastest exodus in modern times.
Biden, who said he listened to Zelenskyy’s speech at the White House, did not directly respond to the criticism that the U.S. should be doing more for the Ukrainians. But he said, “We are united in our abhorrence of Putin’s depraved onslaught, and we’re going to continue to have their backs as they fight for their freedom, their democracy, their very survival.”
Later, leaving an unrelated event, he declared of Putin: “He’s a war criminal.” — the sharpest condemnation yet of Putin and Russian actions by a U.S. official since the invasion of Ukraine.
Biden noted that Russia has bombed hospitals and held doctors hostage, but has insisted there will be no U.S. troops on the ground in Ukraine.
“Direct conflict between NATO and Russia is World War III,” he has said.
Zelenskyy appeared to acknowledge the political reality beyond certain limits.
“Is this too much to ask, to create a no fly zone over Ukraine?” he asked, answering his own question. “If this is too much to ask, we offer an alternative,” he said, calling for weapons systems that would help fight Russian aircraft.
Congress has already approved $13.6 billion in military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine, and the newly announced security aid will come from that allotment, which is part of a broader bill that Biden signed into law Tuesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report