State lawmakers hear Ukraine President Zelenskyy’s pleas to U.S. Congress

Published: Mar. 16, 2022 at 6:27 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - For many in Congress, hearing Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy address them Wednesday wasn’t the first time they heard from a foreign leader.

“We’ve had many foreign leaders who’ve addressed the joint sessions of Congress,” Milada Vachudova, UNC associate professor said. “Usually it’s an expression of friendship, sometimes it’s an expression of an alliance, or sometimes after something has happened that we are celebrating.”

For example, after the fall of communism in then-Czechoslovakia, then-President Václav Havel addressed Congress.

In 1990, Nelson Mandela addressed Congress to communicate a sense of urgency about fighting apartheid and the United States’ role in bringing about sanctions against South Africa.

Vachudova, who specializes in the democratization of post-communist Europe, said Zelenskyy’s address on Wednesday is historic because of the urgency he begs of the U.S. to do more as Ukraine reaches nearly three weeks of being bombed every single day by Russian forces.

“The problem though is that Russia has an enormous amount of firepower,” Vachudova said. “And Zelenskyy’s sense of urgency is because his citizens are being killed every single day. Children, families.”

For Rep. Greg Murphy (NC-03), who heard Zelenskyy and saw the video of death and devastation in Ukraine, it was a “sobering experience.”

“The bottom line is he wants our help,” Murphy said. “He wants our help as a nation, as the leader of the free world. He wants supplies. He wants a no-fly zone.”

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) explained why the U.S. opposes a no-fly zone.

“If you establish a no-fly zone, then what happens when a Russian plane crosses over and it has to be taken out?” Tillis said. “Then you’re talking about a response from a NATO country which lays a predicate for World War III. That’s why I’m so intent on helping the Ukrainian people get the materials that they need to effectively create that deterrent and their own self-managed no-fly zone.”

Tillis’ virtual press conference on Wednesday came as the Senate passed a resolution he co-sponsored. The resolution calls for Vladimir Putin and members of his regime to be held accountable for war crimes.

“I believe we should use every possible option to arm and equip Ukrainian people, including urging the administration, along with several other senators, to work out a way to transfer MiG fighters to the Ukrainian airmen who can fly them,” Tillis said.

Tillis called for supporting Zelenskyy and said Putin needs to be stopped.

“We need to continue to put the pressure on, we know that it’s having a more dramatic effect sooner than we expected,” Tillis said. “And that gets the Russian people thinking about what’s really going on in Ukraine.”

Congressman G. K. Butterfield (NC-1) did not make an official statement on Wednesday, but his office said he supports President Biden’s decision to deploy resources and equipment to Ukraine, rally European allies to support Kyiv, and spearhead sanctions on Moscow to punish Russia’s Vladimir Putin for his aggression.

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