March 16, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Helen Regan, Adam Renton, George Ramsay, Ed Upright and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, March 17, 2022
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10:29 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Zelensky gets bipartisan standing ovation as he wraps his address

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky virtually addresses the US Congress on March 16 at the US Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Auditorium, in Washington, DC.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky virtually addresses the US Congress on March 16 at the US Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Auditorium, in Washington, DC. (J. Scott Applewhite/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky received another standing ovation as he finished his remarks to bipartisan members of the US House and Senate. He also received a standing ovation before he spoke.

The historic speech given as a virtual address comes as the United States is under pressure from Ukraine to supply more military assistance to the embattled country as it fights back against Russia's deadly attack.

Zelensky also delivered similar addresses to the UK and Canadian parliaments.

10:06 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Zelensky makes direct appeal to Biden: "Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace"

Members of the US Congress listen during a virtual address by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (on screen) on March 16, 2022, at the US Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Auditorium, in Washington, DC.
Members of the US Congress listen during a virtual address by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (on screen) on March 16, 2022, at the US Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Auditorium, in Washington, DC. (Sarah Silbiger/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky directly addressed US President Joe Biden in his speech to Congress, calling on him to be "the leader of peace."

"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. I'm addressing the 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," Zelensky said in English, concluding his remarks.  

WATCH:

9:39 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Zelensky closed his speech in English, urging leaders to fight for the "right to die when your time comes"

In a powerful closing to his virtual address to the US Congress, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky switched from Ukrainian to English and said that being the leader of the world and the leader of peace means fighting for the life of people of the world and for their "right to die when your time comes."

"Today, it is not enough to be the leader of the nation ... 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. 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."

Ukrainians are defending Ukraine and the values of Europe and the world, he added.

9:45 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Zelensky calls on US to "do more" to punish Russia for invading Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky virtually addresses the US Congress on March 16, at the US Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Auditorium, in Washington, DC.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky virtually addresses the US Congress on March 16, at the US Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Auditorium, in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky called on the United States to "do more" during what is "the darkest time" for his country.

"In the darkest time for our country, for the whole Europe, I call on you to do more. New packages of sanctions are needed, constantly, every week until the Russian military machine stops. Restrictions are needed for everyone on whom this unjust regime is based," he said in a video address to Congress.

Zelensky said the US should sanction all Russian politicians "who remain in their offices and do not cut ties with those who are against Ukraine."

"All American companies must leave Russia from their market, leave their market immediately, because it is flooded with our blood. Ladies and gentlemen, members of Congress, please take the lead, if you have companies in your districts who finance the Russian military machine leaving business in Russia, you should put pressure. I'm asking to make sure that the Russians do not receive a single penny that they use to destroy people in Ukraine," Zelensky said.

He also said there needs to be "new institutions, new alliances" to stop the war.

"We propose to create an association ... a union of responsible countries that have the strength and consciousness to stop conflicts immediately, provide all the necessary assistance in 24 hours, if necessary, even weapons, if necessary, sanctions, humanitarian support, political support, finances, everything you need to keep the peace and quickly save the world, to save lives," he said.

WATCH:

9:39 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Zelensky renews his call for a no-fly zone over Ukrainian skies in his address to US Congress

Urainian President Volodymyr Zelensky renewed his call for a no-fly zone over Ukraine in his virtual address to the United States Congress Wednesday, but offered alternatives in case this request could not be fulfilled.

"To create a no-fly zone over Ukraine, to save people, is this too much to ask? Humanitarian, no-fly zone — Something that Russia would not be able to [use to] terrorize our free cities. If this is too much to ask, we offer an alternative. You know what kind of defense systems we need, as 300 and similar other systems. 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," he told the US lawmakers.

He urged that aircrafts that the US already has need to be in the Ukrainian skies, defending Ukraine as Russia's invasion of the country continues.

"Aircraft that can help Ukraine, help Europe, and, you know that they exist, and you have them. But they are on Earth, not in the Ukrainian sky. They do not defend our people," he added.

Invoking the famous Martin Luther King speech, he said:

"'I have a dream,' — these words are known to each of you. Today, I can say, I have a need. I need to protect our sky. I need your decision, your help, which means exactly the same you feel when you hear the words 'I have a dream.'"
9:30 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Zelensky references Mt. Rushmore, Pearl Harbor and 9/11 in appeal to US Congress

From CNN's Eric Levenson

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky speaks at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, March 16.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky speaks at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, March 16. (Pool)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made references to Mount Rushmore, the attacks on Pearl Harbor and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in his pitch to American lawmakers in Congress on Wednesday.

"Russia has attacked not just us, not just our land, not just our cities. It went on a brutal offensive against our values, basic human values," he said, speaking through a translator. "It threw tanks and planes against our freedom, against our right to live freely in our own country, choosing our own future. Against our desire for happiness, against our national dream, just like the same dreams you have, you, Americans. Just like anyone else in the United States.

"I remember your national memorial in Rushmore, the faces of your prominent presidents, those who laid the foundation of the United States of America as it is today, democracy, independence, freedom and care for everyone, for every person, for everyone who works diligently, who lives honestly, who respects the law," he continued.

Zelensky also asked lawmakers to remember the attacks of Pearl Harbor in World War II and on the World Trade Center in 2001 in considering his request for help.

"Remember Pearl Harbor, the terrible morning of December 7, 1941, when your sky was black from the planes attacking you. Just remember it. Remember September 11th, a terrible day in 2001 when evil tried to turn your cities, independent territories, into battlefields. When innocent people were attacked, attacked from air," he said.

"Just like nobody else expected it, you could not stop it. Our country experienced the same every day."

Zelensky also invoked the famous words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King in asking for military help: "I have a dream, these words are known to each of you today I can say. I have a need, I need to protect our sky. I need your decision, your help, which means exactly the same, the same you feel when you hear the words 'I have a dream.' "

WATCH:

10:14 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Zelensky is showing a graphic video of Russia's attacks in Ukraine

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky shows a video at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, March 16.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky shows a video at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, March 16. (Pool)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is showing a graphic video now showing fighting in his country and attacks by Russian forces as part of his address to US Congress.

Earlier in this remarks, Zelensky reiterated his calls for a no-fly zone over Ukraine and lauded the bravery of the Ukrainian people.

The video ended with a slate that said "close the sky over Ukraine."

During Zelensky’s video presentation, the pool could hear a pin drop in the room. A few members took videos with their phones. The audio on the video was low in the room. Not overpowering but soft and emotional. 

Ukrainian-American GOP Rep. Victoria Spartz did not sit but stood in the back of the room throughout the speech. During the video, she was very emotional. 

Late in the speech GOP Rep. Madison Cawthorn walked up next to the press pool and was seen watching the video.

Pool reporters inside the hall contributed reporting to this post.

Warning Graphic Video

WATCH:

9:21 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Zelensky again called for a no-fly zone over Ukraine. Here's what it means.

Analysis from CNN's Luke McGee

In his virtual address to members of US Congress, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reiterated his calls for the establishment of a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

Lawmakers of both parties have said they are wary of a no-fly zone at this time because they think it could pit the US directly against Russia in the skies over Ukraine.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki, meanwhile, told reporters on Tuesday that, despite requests from Zelensky, the White House does not support instituting a no-fly zone over Ukraine or supplying the Ukrainian Air Force with new fighter aircraft.

What is a no-fly zone? A no-fly zone is an area where certain aircraft cannot fly for any number of reasons. In the context of a conflict such as the one in Ukraine, it would probably mean a zone in which Russian planes were not allowed to fly, to prevent them from carrying out airstrikes against Ukraine.

NATO has imposed no-fly zones in non-member countries before, including Bosnia and Libya. However, it is always a controversial move because it means getting semi-involved in a conflict without fully committing ground forces.

What would happen if NATO imposed a no-fly zone? The problem with military no-fly zones is that they have to be enforced by military power. If a Russian aircraft flew into a NATO no-fly zone, then NATO forces would have to take action against that aircraft. Those measures could include shooting the plane from the sky. That would, in Russia's eyes, be an act of war by NATO and would likely escalate the conflict.

Why hasn't NATO imposed a no-fly zone? Neither Ukraine nor Russia is a member of NATO. Russia President Vladimir Putin clearly sees NATO as a direct threat to his authority and has recently criticized its expansion toward Russia, using it as justification for his invasion of Ukraine.

As a result, NATO is extremely reluctant to become directly involved in the Ukraine conflict with a rival nuclear power. While it supports Ukraine's resistance and recognizes Putin's actions as an invasion of a sovereign nation, the alliance is simply not prepared to do anything that could be interpreted as a direct act of war on Russia and risk an escalation that could lead to the use of nuclear weapons.

Read more about the no-fly zone here.

CNN's Clare Foran and Ted Barrett contributed reporting to this post.

12:51 p.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Zelensky to US Congress: "Right now, the destiny of our country is being decided"

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky speaks at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, March 16.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky speaks at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, March 16. (Pool)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky opened his address to Congress by lauding the bravery of the Ukrainian people and saying the "destiny" of his country is being decided right now amid the Russia invasion.

The capital city of Kyiv is "under missile and air strikes from Russian troops every day. But it doesn't give up, Zelensky, addressing Congress virtually, said via a translator.

He said his country is "in the worst war since World War II."

"I have the honor to greet you on behalf of the Ukrainian people, brave and freedom-loving people, who for eight years have been resisting the Russian aggression," he said. "Those who give their best sons and daughters to stop this full-scale Russian invasion."

"Right now, the destiny of our country is being decided. The destiny of our people where the Ukrainians will be free, whether they will be able to preserve their democracy. Russia has attacked not just us, not just our land, not just our cities, it went on a brutal offensive against our values, basic human values," he said.

Watch Zelensky's remarks: