Ukraine-Russia War, Biden and Summit News: Live Updates

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Credit…Pool photo by Evelyn Hockstein

BRUSSELS — President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine made another urgent plea for help to President Biden and members of the NATO alliance on Thursday, telling them in a closed-door session that his country was under siege, trapped “in the ‘gray zone’ between the West and Russia,” according to a transcript of his remarks released by the Ukrainian government.

Mr. Zelensky spoke via video link from Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, as alliance members gathered here for the first of three back-to-back summits designed to bolster the world’s unity of opposition to Russia’s monthlong invasion of the country.

He argued that NATO should come to Ukraine’s defense even though his country is not a formal member of the defensive alliance set up after World War II.

“Yes, we are not in the alliance. And I do not make these claims. But Ukrainians never thought that the alliance and the allies were different,” he said. He said he understood the position, often expressed by Mr. Biden, that American troops would not be sent to Ukraine to fight directly with Russians.

“I am sure you already understand that Russia does not intend to stop in Ukraine,” he said. “Does not intend and will not. It wants to go further.”

A senior U.S. administration official who watched the address described Mr. Zelensky’s remarks as “eloquent” and noted that Ukraine’s president did not call for a no-fly zone or admission to the NATO alliance.

But Mr. Zelensky did refer to his previous requests for a no-fly zone and did not mince words in his remarks, according to the transcript.

“On Feb. 24, I addressed you with a perfectly clear, logical request to help close our skies,” he said, referring to previous requests for the allies to impose a no-fly zone over his country to keep Russian planes away. “In any format. Protect our people from Russian bombs and missiles. We did not hear a clear answer.”

“And you see the consequences today,” he added a moment later. “How many people were killed, how many peaceful cities were destroyed?”

Mr. Zelensky has become more and more pointed in his criticism of the restraint from the United States and other countries as Russian forces have savaged many Ukrainian cities, especially in the south.

On Thursday, he criticized the allies for failing to provide fighter jets that Ukraine could use to defend against the air attacks. The White House and the Pentagon have said such support would not prove especially effective, and could be used by Russia as a pretext to draw the United States into a more direct conflict.

But Mr. Zelensky waved aside such concerns.

“Ukraine asked for your planes. So that we do not lose so many people. And you have thousands of fighter jets! But we haven’t been given any yet,” he said. “To save people and our cities, Ukraine needs military assistance — without restrictions.”

The senior Biden administration official said that after Mr. Zelensky’s remarks the NATO members engaged in a conversation about the possibility of providing anti-ship missile systems to Ukraine.

But that could take time, and Mr. Zelensky closed his remarks with a plea for immediate action.

“NATO has yet to show what the alliance can do to save people,” he told the leaders. “To show that this is truly the most powerful defense union in the world. And the world is waiting. And Ukraine is very much waiting. Waiting for real actions. Real security guarantees. From those whose word is trustworthy. And whose actions can keep the peace.”

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