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Zelensky pleads with US for warplanes as Russia intensifies shelling of Mariupol


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Fighting for his country’s survival, Ukraine’s leader made a “desperate” plea Saturday to American lawmakers for the United States to help get more warplanes to his military and cut off Russian oil imports as Kyiv tries to stave off the Russian invasion.

Meanwhile the mayor of the besieged city of Mariupol said Russian forces have intensified shelling in the port city, including with the use of airplanes.

President Volodymyr Zelensky opened the private video call with US lawmakers by telling them this may be the last time they see him alive. He has remained in Kyiv, the capital, which has a vast Russian armored column threatening from the north.

Appearing in what is now his trademark army-green shirt in front of a white wall with the Ukrainian flag, he told them Ukraine needs to secure its skies, either through a no-fly zone enforced by NATO or through the provision of more warplanes so Ukraine could better defend itself. Zelenskyy has been pleading for a no-fly zone for days, but NATO has refused, saying it could provoke a widespread war with Russia.

The hourlong exchange with some 300 members of Congress and their staffs came as Russian troops continued to shell encircled cities and the number of Ukrainians who have fled the country grew to 1.4 million.

“President Zelensky made a desperate plea,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

He said Zelensky wants the US to facilitate the transfer of planes from Eastern European allies. “I will do all I can to help the administration to facilitate their transfer,” Schumer said

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