Mar 3, 2022 - World

Zelensky: If West won't impose no-fly zone, "give me the planes"


Photo: Sergei SupinskyY/AFP via Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said at a press conference Thursday that if the U.S. and NATO will not establish a "no-fly" zone over Ukraine, they should provide Ukraine with warplanes to defend itself against Russia's aerial assault.

Why it matters: The U.S. and NATO have said enforcing a "no-fly" zone would potentially require their forces to shoot down Russian aircraft, drawing them directly into a conflict with a nuclear power.

  • The European Union's foreign policy chief stunned observers when he said last week that EU countries formerly part of the Eastern Bloc would deliver Soviet-era fighter jets that Ukrainian pilots were capable of operating.
  • That promise appears to have fallen apart, however, as Poland, Bulgaria and Slovakia have said they do not plan to expand the scope of their military aid to Ukraine to include aircraft.

What they're saying: "I say every day if you cannot shut the sky now, then give us the timeline when you will do it? If you now cannot provide the timeline, tell us how many people have to die?" Zelensky asked at a lengthy press conference with reporters in Kyiv.

  • "Tell me how many. I'll go to count and wait for this moment. I hope the sky will be shut down. If you don't have strength and courage to do that, then give me the planes. Wouldn't that be fair?"

The big picture: Zelensky, who has become a global icon of Ukraine's resistance, acknowledged the fear that comes from Vladimir Putin's threats to his life, his family and his country.

  • "I feel pain as anybody else," Zelensky said. "It would not be normal not to."
  • "I don’t want Ukraine’s history to be a legend about 300 Spartans," he added. "I want peace."

Go deeper: Get the latest developments on Russia-Ukraine

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