Several senators involved in the meeting confirmed that Zelensky requested planes or a no-fly zone to be enforced in Ukraine against Russian aircraft. Many lawmakers subsequently expressed their support for Zelensky’s request on social media, despite critics warning that a no-fly zone or further military assistance could lead to a direct conflict between Russia and NATO.
“Ukraine needs airpower urgently and America should send it,” said Republican Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse following the meeting. “Zelensky’s message is simple: ‘close the skies or give us planes.’”
While Sasse expressed skepticism over a no-fly zone, observing that it would mean “sending American pilots into combat against Russian jets” in “a battle between nuclear powers that could spiral out of control quickly,” he called for the US to send Ukraine planes and other equipment.
“Americans should absolutely send Ukrainians planes, helicopters, and UAVs. Let’s resupply Ukraine’s Air Force today and keep the Ghosts of Kyiv in the skies,” he said, in reference to the ‘Ghost of Kyiv’ hoax which has been discredited and debunked by US media outlets.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer – a Democrat – also expressed support for sending planes to Ukraine.
“President Zelenskyy made a desperate plea for Eastern European countries to provide Russian-made planes to Ukraine. These planes are very much needed. And I will do all I can to help the administration to facilitate their transfer,” he said.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee praised Zelensky and condemned Russia in a tweet following the meeting, while Republican South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham claimed Zelensky had told him and other US lawmakers about “numerous examples of war crimes” allegedly committed in Ukraine.
Honored to hear from @ZelenskyyUa as he takes every measure to defend Ukraine from illegal Russian aggression & Putin’s indiscriminate attacks on civilians. Zelenskyy’s resilience & commitment to the people of Ukraine inspire the world. Proud to stand with you Mr. President. 🇺🇦
— Senate Foreign Relations Committee (@SFRCdems) March 5, 2022
“There were numerous examples of war crimes provided by President Zelensky – mayors have been captured, imprisoned and murdered,” Graham claimed. “There’s wholesale attacks on civilian targets, random, indiscriminate, and the Putin war machine, in my view, is in full blown war crimes mode.”
Graham sparked outrage this week after he called for the assassination of Russian President Vladimir Putin in a social media post. Russia’s Ambassador to Washington called the comments “unacceptable and outrageous” and accused Graham of advocating an act of terrorism.
Zelensky also appeared to encourage the US lawmakers to push for an end to the purchase of Russian oil and gas worldwide. After Zelensky made the request, Republican Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan called on US President Joe Biden to “listen to this brave President” and “block imports of Russian oil and gas TODAY.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken rejected calls for immediate Russian energy sanctions on Friday, arguing that such a move would harm ordinary Americans more than Moscow.
“There is no strategic interest in reducing the global supply of energy,” Blinken said.
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, stating it was necessary to “demilitarize” the country to protect the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, and Moscow’s own security interests. Kiev insists the invasion was unprovoked, maintaining it had no plans to retake the break-away Donetsk and Lugansk regions by force. The majority of Western countries condemned the attack and imposed tough sanctions on Russian officials, and the country at large.