Zelensky Calls on Biden To Be 'Leader of the World' in Congress Speech

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky has called on President Joe Biden to be the "leader of the world" during a speech to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.

Appearing via video link, Zelensky delivered most of his speech with the help of a translator but began speaking in English toward the end of his address, before appealing directly to Biden.

"I see no sense in life if it cannot stop the deaths. And this is my main issue as the leader of the people, great Ukrainians, and as the leader of my nation," Zelensky said. "I am addressing President Biden: you are the leader of the nation, of your great nation.

"I wish you to be the leader of the world. Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace."

The Ukrainian president also repeated his calls for a no-fly zone over his country and urged further sanctions, including against all Russian politicians who still support President Vladimir Putin.

He began his speech by invoking the Pearl Harbor attack in December 1941 that brought the U.S. into World War II and the terrorist attacks of 9/11. He also mentioned the presidents carved into Mount Rushmore.

"Remember Pearl Harbor, terrible morning of December 7, 1941, when your sky was black from the planes attacking you," Zelenksy told American lawmakers.

"Just remember it, remember, September 11, a terrible day in 2001 when evil tried to turn U.S. cities into battlefields, when innocent people were attacked from air, just like nobody else expected it and you could not stop it," he said.

"Our country experiences the same, every day, right now at this moment."

Calling for the no-fly zone, he said: "Russia has turned the Ukrainian sky into a source of death for thousands of people."

Earlier in his address, Zelensky said: "To create a no-fly zone over Ukraine, to save people, is this too much to ask?" He described his proposal as a "humanitarian" no-fly zone that would prevent Russia from terrorizing "our free cities."

However, the Ukrainian president appeared to acknowledge that the U.S. and NATO have ruled this out and offered an "alternative" suggestion, requesting aircraft.

"You know how much depends, on the battlefield, on the ability to use aircraft, powerful strong aviation to protect our people, our freedom, our land, aircraft that can help Ukraine, help Europe. You know they exist and you have them, but they are on Earth not in the Ukrainian sky," Zelensky said.

"I need to protect our sky."

He called for further sanctions on Russia, including against politicians "who remain in their offices and do not cut ties with those who are against Ukraine."

Zelensky urged U.S. businesses to cease their operations in Russia and asked lawmakers to put pressure on any companies in their districts that still had ties to the country.

Stressing the need for new institutions, the president said he was proposing "a union of responsible countries that have the strength and consciousness to stop conflicts immediately."

Toward the end of his remarks, Zelensky showed U.S. lawmakers a video of some graphic scenes from the war, before delivering the final section of his speech in English.

"Today, it is not enough to be the leader of the nation," Zelensky said in English. "Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace. Peace in your country doesn't depend anymore only on you and your people. It depends on those next to you, on those who are strong.

"Strong doesn't mean weak," he went on. "Strong is brave and ready to fight for the life of his citizens and citizens of the world. For human rights, for freedom, for the right to live decently and to die when your time comes, and not when it's wanted by someone else, by your neighbor."

Members of Congress gave the Ukrainian president a standing ovation.

Newsweek has asked the White House for comment.

Update 03/16/22 10:45a.m. ET: This article was updated to add more information.

Volodymyr Zelensky Addresses Congress
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks to the U.S. Congress by video to plead for support as his country is besieged by Russian forces on March 16, in Washington, D.C. Zelensky addressed President Joe Biden directly in remarks delivered in English. Getty Images/J. Scott Applewhite-Pool