Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Saturday asked US lawmakers for more lethal assistance to aid his country’s defense against Russia’s military invasion. In a Zoom meeting with over 280 members of Congress, the president called the Russians “devils” and, while expressing appreciation for the assistance that has included both military hardware and massive sanctions, appealed for more military aid.
“Don’t allow brave and strong people who share your values to be exterminated,” Zelenskyy implored the lawmakers in an emotional address. Wearing a military green shirt and sitting beside a Ukrainian flag, the president also called for stronger sanctions and an embargo of Russian oil exports.
However, his plea for a no-fly zone to protect the Ukrainian population from Russia’s daily aerial assault met strong resistance from even more hawkish members of Congress, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL.). Rubio made clear that he does not support taking action that would lead to “World War III.”
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), a Senate Foreign Relations Committee member, stresses that a no-fly zone will confront nuclear power. “The Russians will not observe a no-fly zone. Thus, you will have US and Russian forces in combat. The United States is not going to war with Russia, period, stop.”
Russia continues to use airstrikes to pummel the Ukrainian population. This week, a Reuters poll found 74% of Americans favor the US and NATO implementing the no-fly zone desperately needed by the country’s defenders. The poll, taken Thursday and Friday, is in stark contrast with the Biden administration and Congress flatly refusing to implement no-fly zones.
One request Zelenskyy made in the Saturday morning virtual meeting drew a quick and positive response. Both Mastercard and Visa announced they are suspending all operations in Russia in another corporate action protesting the Ukraine invasion.
Mastercard says its network no longer supports its cards issued by Russian banks and cards from outside Russia will not work in the country’s ATMs or stores. Visa announced it ceased all its card transactions in Russia over several days.
Both announced their actions within 16 minutes of each other following Zelenskyy’s plea. Each receives about 4% of their net revenues from transactions within the country.
Fears of conscription and martial law are spreading among the populace. The country is in the grips of harsh sanctions and growing isolation never experienced by a nation and economy of its size. Reports say some Russians are even trying to flee abroad to escape the escalating hardships the invasion and ensuing sanctions have brought on.