March 6 (UPI) — President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday that Russia has dropped missiles on the city of Vinnytsia in western Ukraine as he again called for a no-fly zone over the country.
Zelensky said in a televised address that the city, which has a population of about 600,000 people and is far from the frontline of the invasion, was hit with eight missiles.
“A brutal, cynical missile strike has completely destroyed the airport. They continue total destruction of our infrastructure,” Zelensky said.
“We repeat everyday: ‘Close the sky over Ukraine!’ Close it for all Russian missiles, Russian combat aircraft, for all these terrorists.”Zelensky pleaded to make the skies over Ukraine a zone for humanitarian flight only “without rockets, without air bombs.”
“We are people and it is your humanitarian duty to protect us, protect people, and you can do it,” Zelensky said. “If you do not do that, if you at least do not give us aircraft for us to be able to protect ourselves, there can be only one conclusion: You also want us to be slowly killed.”
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba shared a video of one of the missiles soaring through the air after it had been fired by Russian forces.
“[Russian President Vladimir] Putin continues his cowardly and barbaric missile strikes, air bombardment of civilians,” Kuleba said. “Help us close the sky and save lives! Provide air and missile defense, combat aircraft! Stop Russian terrorism!”
Zelensky’s comments come just days after he called NATO “weak” during an address Friday after the alliance rejected a no-fly zone over Ukraine. He had called for the no-fly zone after Russian forces on Friday took control of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in Ukraine during a shelling attack.
“We believe that NATO countries have created a narrative that closing the skies over Ukraine would provoke Russia’s direct aggression against NATO,” Zelensky said Friday.
“This is the self-hypnosis of those who are weak, underconfident internally, despite the fact they possess weapons many times more powerful than ours.”
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a press briefing in Brussels on Friday that the United States would not create a no-fly zone because enforcing it could provoke further war in Europe.
“The only way to actually implement something like a no-fly zone is to send NATO planes into Ukrainian airspace and to shoot down Russian planes, and that could lead to a full-fledged war in Europe,” Blinken said.
“President [Joe] Biden has been clear that we are not going to get into a war with Russia. But we are going to tremendous lengths with allies and partners to provide the Ukrainians with the means to effectively defend themselves.”
After Blinken’s comments, Putin called sanctions placed against the country a “declaration of war” and warned that a no-fly zone over Ukraine would make NATO “participants” in it.
Zelensky then met with members of the U.S. Congress on Saturday and asked for the United States to stop buying Russian oil while again pleading for a no-fly zone or a supply of military aircraft.
U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a statement that he did not support the idea of a no-fly zone over fears it could provoke further war. But he urged the United States to provide Ukraine with planes and helicopters.
“Ukraine needs airpower urgently and America should send it. Zelensky’s message is simple: ‘close the skies or give us planes,'” Sasse said.
“Let’s be clear-eyed about our options: A no-fly zone means sending American pilots into combat against Russian jets and air defenses — in a battle between nuclear powers that could spiral out of control quickly. But Americans should absolutely send Ukrainians planes, helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles.”