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Rep. Dusty Johnson says Zelenskyy’s address to Congress was ‘history happening’

Both U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., and Johnson said they concurred with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's calls on so-called "secondary sanctions," or the blacklisting of Russia's business partners, as well as the supply of weapons, body armor, and fighter jets to Ukraine to defend against Russia's invasion of the eastern European nation.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy talks during an interview with Reuters in Kyiv
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy talks during an interview with Reuters in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Tuesday, March 1, 2022.
Umit Bektas / Reuters

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson said he's seen fewer moments of national unity in Congress than when Ukraine's war-time President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed lawmakers in Washington by video on Wednesday, March 16.

"There was a decided feeling in the room that this was history happening," Johnson told Forum News Service. "When President Zelenskyy’s face came on the screen, everyone — Democrat and Republican — leaped to their feet.

Johnson added the supportive reaction "was the longest period of sustained applause" he'd ever witnessed.

Zelenskyy, wearing a green T-shirt, spoke Wednesday to a bicameral gathering of the U.S. Congress, requesting military aid, more sanctions, and establishment of a no-fly zone in his nation's skies. Ukraine has been under attack from neighboring Russia for the past three weeks.

Both U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., and Johnson said they concurred with Zelenskyy's calls on so-called "secondary sanctions," or the blacklisting of Russia's business partners, as well as the supply of weapons, body armor, and fighter jets to Ukraine to defend against Russia's invasion of the eastern European nation.

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"Vladimir Putin wants to overtake their country," Rounds said in a video posted to social media on Wednesday. "He can't defeat their military at this point. So he is attacking soft targets."

Rounds did not comment specifically on the no-fly zone. But Johnson did, stopping short of supporting the measure, which he said would inevitably require American pilots to engage with Russian pilots, likely intensifying the conflict.

"There continues to be a high level of concern in Congress that doing that might make the globe less safe rather than more safe," Johnson told FNS. "The Russians will violate a no-fly zone."

In a tweet, Sen. John Thune said the U.S. stands with Ukraine, but did not offer any specifics on a no-fly zone.

The Biden administration has previously rejected establishing a no-fly zone over Ukraine. After Zelenskyy's speech on Wednesday, President Joe Biden did announce the release of another $800 million to the Ukrainian military effort, including anti-aircraft weapons, guns, and body armor.

Christopher Vondracek covers South Dakota news for Forum News Service. Email him at cvondracek@forumcomm.com or follow him on Twitter at @ChrisVondracek.
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