By Nandita Bose and Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden will announce an additional $800 million in security assistance to Ukraine on Wednesday, but his position on a “no-fly zone” has not changed after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s urgent appeal to the U.S. Congress for military help to fend off a Russian invasion, the White House says.
Biden will address Zelenskiy’s remarks in his planned speech, a White House official said. He also plans to detail funding to come from a massive spending bill Biden signed into law that includes $13.6 billion in new aid to Ukraine. The new funding will provide additional humanitarian, security and economic assistance, and roughly half of the aid package will be used to deploy troops to the region and send defense equipment to Ukraine.
In his address to Congress, Zelenskiy compared the ongoing attacks in Ukraine to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that pulled the United States into World War Two, and begged lawmakers, and Biden directly, for more help.
“This is a terror that Europe has not seen for 80 years, and we are asking for our life, for an answer to this terror from the whole world. Is this a lot to ask for? To create a no-fly zone over Ukraine to save people?,” Zelenskiy said, through an interpreter.
â€œIf this is too much to ask, we offer an alternative,” he said. “You know what kind of defense systems we need,” adding that he knows the United States has them.
Biden has referred to the creation of a “no-fly zone” over Ukraine as “World War Three,” and the Pentagon has refused requests to send MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine.
Earlier on Wednesday, Russia and Ukraine both emphasized newfound scope for compromise as peace talks were set to resume three weeks into a Russian assault that has so far failed to topple the Ukrainian government.
On Tuesday, the White House said Biden will travel to Brussels for a March 24 NATO summit on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow terms a “special military operation.”
Biden has ratcheted up sanctions imposed on Russia in recent days. He has called for a suspension of Russia’s trading status that affords its exported products lower tariffs in the international arena and announced a ban on Russian oil and other energy imports.
The United Nations estimates that around 3 million people have fled Ukraine, mostly women and children, and are seeking safety in neighboring countries, mainly Poland.
Biden will deliver remarks at 11:45 a.m. ET (1545 GMT).
(Reporting by Nandita Bose and Steve Holland in Washington; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Heather Timmons)