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In an appeal to Congress, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy asked the U.S. to help Ukraine


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed a joint session of Congress virtually this morning. He received multiple standing ovations from lawmakers, and he pleaded for the U.S. to send more military support to fight the Russian invasion and spoke directly to President Biden.


PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY: President Biden, you are the leader of the nation. I wish you to be the leader of the world. Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis joins us now. Susan, it was a short speech - spoke for 10 minutes. What were his main messages to Congress?

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: You know, he really tried to appeal to the American sensibility and our own history. He talked about - remember Pearl Harbor. Remember 9/11. Remember that feeling of your own cities being under attack. He cited the words of Martin Luther King, saying I have a dream, you know, for the protection of democracy and future in Ukraine. He even played a video of images of a peaceful Ukraine before the Russian invasion and then backed up against images of those very same cities being bombed today. He did seem to make a little bit of news in that he conceded to lawmakers that the U.S. is not going to support a so-called no-fly zone. The Biden administration has been very clear they don't support it, that they will not move the U.S. closer to direct engagement with Russia. However, Zelenskyy said that, in his words, there could be an alternative, and he made a plea for more defense systems.


ZELENSKYY: (Through interpreter) You know what kind of defense systems we need - aircraft that can help Ukraine, help Europe. And you know that they exist, and you have them, but they are on earth, not in the Ukrainian sky.

MARTÍNEZ: And, Susan, when he referenced MLK with that I have a dream, he also added some wordplay there by saying, I have a need as well. So I'm wondering, overall, how has this been received so far?

DAVIS: You know, he has had tremendous bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, certainly for sending more military and intelligence support. Leaders have been really moved by Zelenskyy's leadership on this. Senator Chris Coons - he's a Democrat from Delaware - talked to reporters before the speech. He had spoken with Zelenskyy earlier this month in a private Zoom call with a handful of lawmakers, and he said he's been moved to tears by him and how he's handled himself and his leadership. So there's certainly bipartisan support in Congress. Congress doesn't necessarily need to give any authority to transfer more weapons. There's a lot of power rested in the Pentagon and the executive branch on this. But Congress has been very interested in sending public messages of support and certainly to the administration to say, do this. Do it faster. We support these actions.

MARTÍNEZ: And in the room where they were watching the speech, there were Democrats and Republicans sitting, mingled amongst each other. They weren't on one side of the other in that whole place. I know President Biden is expected to announce another 800 million in military aid. What else is Congress looking to do?

DAVIS: Well, just last week, they approved a $14 billion package in military and humanitarian aid. If Ukraine were to ask for more, if the administration were to ask for more, it's very likely that lawmakers will continue to have some bipartisan support for more aid there. The House has already passed legislation affirming the Biden administration's ban on Russian oil and gas imports. This week the House is going to vote on repealing normal trade relations status with Russia. Biden has already announced this, but Congress needs to codify it. The Senate says they're going to look on moving on that fast. And just last night the Senate passed a resolution by unanimous support condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian military for what they say are alleged war crimes against the people of Ukraine.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis. Susan, thank you very much.

DAVIS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rachel Martin
Rachel Martin is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Susan Davis
Susan Davis is a congressional correspondent for NPR and a co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast. She has covered Congress, elections, and national politics since 2002 for publications including USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, National Journal and Roll Call. She appears regularly on television and radio outlets to discuss congressional and national politics, and she is a contributor on PBS's Washington Week with Robert Costa. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Philadelphia native.