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Indiana Congressional delegation praises Zelenskyy speech

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, center, arrives to attend a military drill outside the city of Rivne, northern Ukraine, Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Members of Indiana’s Congressional delegation said Wednesday’s speech by Ukraine’s president underscores the need to continue supporting that country’s fight for survival.

Speaking to Congress by video feed 20 days after Russia’s invasion of his country, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged Congress to support a no-fly zone or, failing that, the transfer of sophisticated air defense systems such as the S-300 surface-to-air missile system and Russian-built MiG-29 air superiority fighters. North Atlantic Treaty Organization military aid to Ukraine to date has primarily taken the form of shoulder-fired weapons such as the Javelin anti-tank missile and the Stinger surface-to-air missile. Members of both parties said they still do not support a no-fly zone, arguing it could bring American military personnel into direct conflict with the Russians.

In his speech, Zelenskyy asked Americans to recall the attack on Pearl Harbor and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, saying Ukrainians have to live with that every single day. Rep. Jackie Walorski, a Republican, said those references jogged everyone’s memories. She said she opposes putting American troops on the ground but believes there is bipartisan agreement on the MiGs.

“They’re fighting now, they’re holding off Putin and his large-scale army, they are requesting the one thing that is going to bring an end to this,” she said.

In recent weeks, Poland floated the idea of transferring its remaining Soviet-era MiG-29s to Ukraine and buying F-16s to replace them. According to Janes World Air Forces, the Polish Air Force currently possesses 21 single-seat MiG-29s plus another six two-seat variants. Bulgaria and Slovakia also still have MiG-29s of various configurations, though officials from neither of those countries have publicly supported a similar transfer.

Rep. Andre Carson, a Democrat, said the United States needs to keep up economic and diplomatic pressure on Russia, including revoking its Most Favored Nation trade status. Carson would not say what his position is on the MiG transfer but said lethal aid should continue to flow to Ukraine.

“It is in our national interest to help the Ukrainians fend off Russia’s attack,” he said.

Republican Sen. Todd Young said the Ukrainians already have proven highly effective on the ground. He said the best way to help them turn the conflict around would be to allow the MiG transfer to proceed.

“If they’re going to be able to engage in the next phase of this fight, which is actually pushing back as oppose to lose slowly, they’re going to need aircraft,” he said.

Walorski, Carson and Young all dismissed the idea that providing weapons to Ukraine, or even approving the MiG transfer, risks starting World War III. Walorski said Putin started the war and already has the blood of Ukrainian civilians on his hands, while Carson said something has to be done.