WALTHAM, Mass. – President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, visibly frustrated and angry with NATO’s response to repeated entreaties to close the skies over Ukrainian territory, slammed NATO for not having the courage to impose a no-fly zone over his country.
The Ukrainian president’s castigation came after NATO member countries met in Brussels on March 4 to discuss Russia’s unprovoked and premeditated war against Ukraine.
While Russia’s war against Ukraine stretches back to 2014, its full-scale invasion began on February 24, and it has included indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets throughout Ukraine, including hospitals, a World War II memorial site, kindergartens and residential buildings.
NATO leaders acknowledged that the Russian military has bombarded Ukraine with cluster munitions. The indiscriminate use of weapons in populated areas, including cluster bombs, is prohibited under international humanitarian law, the laws that govern the conduct of war.
Despite acknowledging Russia’s use of banned weapons and its indiscriminate shelling of civilian locations throughout Ukraine, NATO officials declined Ukraine’s request to impose a no-fly zone over the country.
“We are not part of this conflict,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on March 4 in denying Ukraine’s request.
“We have a responsibility as NATO allies to prevent this war from escalating beyond Ukraine because that would be even more dangerous, more devastating and would cause even more human suffering,” Mr. Stoltenberg said following the NATO meeting in Brussels.
Speaking in a video address from a secure bunker in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, on March 4, Mr. Zelenskyy said took direct issue with that argument.
“NATO countries themselves have created a narrative that the closure of the sky over Ukraine would provoke Russia’s direct aggression against NATO,” Mr. Zelenskyy said.
“This is self-hypnosis of those who are weak, underconfident, internally,” Mr. Zelenskyy said growing visibly angry as he spoke.
“Although they [NATO] may have weapons many times more powerful than ours, you had to think about people, about humanity itself,” Mr. Zelenskyy said. “And what did you think about at that summit? All the people who will die starting from this day will also die because of you, because of your weakness, because of your disunity.”
Mr. Zelenskyy made it clear that he believes NATO’s decision not to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine will only embolden Russia to launch further attacks against his country.
Indeed, late on March 4, CNN reported that U.S. intelligence officials said they believed Russia was planning to “bombard cities into submission” overnight.
“Today, the alliance’s leadership gave the green light for further bombing of Ukrainian cities by refusing to make a no-fly zone,” Mr. Zelenskyy said.
But the Ukrainian president also ended his address by thanking allies in NATO who have provided his country with various forms of aid.
“I am also grateful to our country’s friends in NATO,” Mr. Zelenskyy said. “There are many countries of our friends, our partners, most of the powerful partners, those who help our state no matter what, from the first day of the invasion, and, I’m sure, until the victory.”
“And that’s why we do not feel alone,” Mr. Zelenskyy said. “We will continue to fight. We will protect our state. We will liberate our land. Thanks to our heroes.”