Zelensky calls on US to remember Pearl Harbor and 9/11: ‘Our country experiences the same every day’

Ukrainian president compared the ongoing assault by Russian forces on the Ukrainian people to America’s own darkest days in history

Rachel Sharp
Wednesday 16 March 2022 16:48 GMT
Zelensky asks Americans to remember Pearl Harbour and 9/11
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President Volodymyr Zelensky has called on Americans to remember Pearl Harbor and the September 11 terrorist attacks as they watch the people of Ukraine being attacked and killed by Russian forces.

The Ukrainian president told lawmakers in a passionate wartime address to the US Congress on Wednesday that Ukraine “experiences the same every day” now as America did during its own darkest days.

“Right now, when we need you right now, remember Pearl Harbor. The terrible morning of December 7 1941 when your skies were black from the planes attacking. You remember it,” he said.

“September 11 – a terrible day in 2001 when evil tried to turn your cities, independent territories in battleground, when innocent people were attacked from air.

“Yes, just like nobody else expected it. You could not stop it.”

Mr Zelensky compared those attacks on US soil to the killings of civilians and troops in Ukraine every day for almost three weeks by Russian forces.

“Our country experiences the same every day right now – at this moment, every night, for three weeks now,” he said.

Russia has turned the Ukrainian sky into a source of death for thousands of people.”

In total, 2,403 people, including 68 civilians, were killed in the surprise aerial attack by Japan on the US’ Pearl Harbor Naval base in Hawaii in 1941.

On September 11 2001, 2,977 people were killed when al-Qaeda terrorists flew four hijacked planes into the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon and one which landed in a field in Pennsylvania.

In the less than three weeks since President Vladimir Putin declared war on Ukraine back on 24 February, at least 636 civilians including 46 children have been killed by Russian forces, according to UN figures.

Ukrainian officials said that at least 1,300 of its troops have been killed.

Zelensky repeated calls for a no-fly zone over Ukraine
Zelensky repeated calls for a no-fly zone over Ukraine (The Independent )

The true figures are expected to be far higher and there is no sign of the war coming to an end.

Russia is increasingly targeting innocent civilians with schools and maternity hospitals among the sites struck by Russian artillery.

Just minutes before Mr Zelensky’s address, the US Embassy in Kyiv announced that Russian forces had shot and killed 10 civilians as they waited in line to buy bread in the city of Chernihiv.

Meanwhile, more than 400 civilians continue to be held hostage inside a hospital in Mariupol, according to Ukrainian officials.

In the impassioned speech, Mr Zelensky made a direct appeal to President Joe Biden to be the “leader of peace” and played a heartbreaking video showing some of the atrocities carried out on the Ukrainian people.

The powerful video, entitled “Close the Sky”, opened with images of families happily playing and going about their lives in pre-war Ukraine before shifting to clips of dead bodies, bombings and crying children taken since the invasion.

Midway through the video “This is a murder” flashed up on the screen.

Zelensky played a heartbreaking video showing some of the atrocities carried out on the Ukrainian people
Zelensky played a heartbreaking video showing some of the atrocities carried out on the Ukrainian people (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

At the end, the words “close the sky over Ukraine” appeared as lawmakers were stunned into silence by the graphic scenes.

Mr Zelensky evoked other parts of the US’ history including its prominent presidents featured on Mount Rushmore and the words of civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King Jr.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

He added: “We in Ukraine want the same for our people. That is a normal part of your own life.”

Lawmakers look on with emotion as they watch the video of the atrocities
Lawmakers look on with emotion as they watch the video of the atrocities (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Mr Zelensky also echoed Dr King’s “I have a dream” speech as he called on his allies to protect the skies over Ukraine.

“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,” he said.

“I need your decision. Your help. Which means exactly the same. The same you feel when you hear the words: ‘I have a dream’.”

After speaking via a translator, Mr Zelensky spoke in English at the close of his speech to make an impassioned plea to Mr Biden for help.

“I see no sense in life if it cannot stop the death,” he said.

“As the leader of my nation I’m addressing President Biden ... I wish you to be the leader of the world.

“Being the leader of the world means being the leader of peace.”

His address came less than two weeks after he first spoke to US House and Senate lawmakers back on 5 March in a private briefing and almost three weeks to the day that Mr Putin launched his full-scale invasion on the country.

Since then, the Ukrainian president has repeatedly called on the US and other Nato allies to establish a no-fly zone over the country – a request that has been turned down by the Biden administration amid concerns it would escalate tensions between Russia and the US.

Watch live as Ukraine's president Zelensky addresses US Congress

Mr Zelensky repeated his calls for a no-fly zone on Wednesday but added that, if it was “too much to ask”, then an alternative would be to provide Ukraine with Soviet-made air defence systems and fighter jets.

“You know what kind of defense systems we need – S-300 and other similar systems – you know how much depends on the battlefield on their ability to use aircraft. powerful, strong air aviation to protect our people with freedom, or lend aircraft that can help Ukraine, help Europe,” he said.

He also called on the US to implement further sanctions on Russia including all its politicians, for all American companies to leave the Russian market immediately, for US lawmakers to put pressure on businesses that refuse and for US ports to be closed to all Russian goods.

“I’m asking to make sure that the Russians do not receive a single penny that they used to destroy people in Ukraine, the destruction of our country, the destruction of Europe... peace is more important than income and we have to defend this principle in the whole world,” he said.

US lawmakers responded by giving the Ukrainian president a standing ovation at the end of his speech.

Mr Biden is expected to announce a new package of military assistance and an extra $800m in security assistance for Ukraine on Wednesday afternoon.

The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered. To find out more about our Refugees Welcome campaign, click here. To sign the petition click here. If you would like to donate then please click here for our GoFundMe page.

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