By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy made a “desperate plea” for aircraft to fight Russian invaders during a video call Saturday with U.S. legislators, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said.
In the Democratic-controlled U.S. Congress, there is strong bipartisan support for $10 billion in emergency military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine following Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion.
Zelenskiy has repeatedly asked the West to implement a no-fly zone over Ukraine, but the U.S. and its NATO allies have rebuffed those calls fearing a direct confrontation with Moscow.
The U.S. instead has promised Zelenskiy military aid, and the Ukrainian leader “made a desperate plea for European countries to provide Russian-made planes to Ukraine” during Saturday’s video call, Schumer said.
“These planes are very much needed. And I will do all I can to help the administration to facilitate their transfer,” Schumer said in a statement. More than 280 members of the Senate and House of Representatives took part in the call.
It was not immediately clear how Washington could assist in the transfer of Russian-made aircraft. However, it could facilitate transactions or possibly become involved in payment or providing replacements for allies who give Ukraine jets.
Several Republican members of Congress, including Republican senators Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham, tweeted their support for Zelenskiy during and after the call.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, is working with Schumer and other legislators to get all the assistance President Joe Biden’s administration has requested for Ukraine, Schumer told Zelenskiy, according to a source briefed on the call.
“Together we will get that assistance of over $10 billion in economic, humanitarian, and security assistance to the Ukrainian people quickly,” Schumer said, according to the source.
(Writing by Rami Ayyub; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Chizu Nomiyama)