Jul 20, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Ukrainian first lady asks for air defense systems in emotional plea to Congress

Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska speaks to members of the US Congress about Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska speaks to members of Congress on July 20. Photo: Saul Loeb/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Ukraine's first lady Olena Zelenska, in an emotional address to Congress on Wednesday, asked for more weapons and air defense equipment.

Driving the news: Zelenska asked whether teachers in Ukraine should prepare to work in classrooms or bomb shelters. "We would have answers if we had air defense systems," she said.

  • "I want to address you not as a first lady but as a daughter and a mother,” Zelenska told the lawmakers.

What she's saying: "Unfortunately, the war is not over, the terror continues and I appeal to all of you, on behalf of those who were killed, on behalf of those people who lost their arms and legs, on behalf of those who are still alive and well, and those who wait for their families to come back from the front," she said.

  • "I’m asking for something I would never want to ask, I am asking for weapons."
  • "Weapons that would not be used to wage a war on somebody else’s land, but to protect one’s home and the right to wake up alive in that home. I’m asking for air defense systems in order for rockets not to kill children in their strollers,” Zelenska told the lawmakers.
  • Zelenska also showed pictures of children whose lives have been shattered by the war, including children who have lost family members, those who have been injured and children who have fled the country.

The big picture: Zelenska met with U.S. first lady Jill Biden at the White House on Tuesday, where the pair was expected to "discuss the United States' continued support for the government of Ukraine and its people as they defend their democracy and cope with the significant human impacts of Russia's war, which will be felt for years to come," the White House said ahead of the visit.

  • On Monday, Zelenska met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Go deeper... Jill Biden meets with Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska at White House

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