Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko pleaded with U.S. lawmakers to sustain their solidarity with his war-torn nation, telling a rare joint meeting of Congress that Ukraine's conflict with Russia was "America's war, too."
At times emotional and at times defiant, Poroshenko delivered a 40-minute address that painted the Ukraine-Russia war in stark terms and as part of "the global battle for democracy."
Poroshenko brought Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to tears with his first words as he thanked the Congress for its support against the aggression led by Vladimir Putin's Russia.
It's impossible to imagine how I am feeling right now – how symbolic is the unity of the United States Congress and solidarity with Ukraine.
This is exactly what Ukraine needs most right now – unity and solidarity, not only with the United States, the United States Congress, but with the whole world."
Boehner's decision to invite Poroshenko to become just the second Ukrainian president to speak in the House chamber was meant as a sharp rebuke of Putin.
But soon after thanking lawmakers, Poroshenko made clear that his country needed more.
Ukraine, he said, had been "brought to the brink of survival."
Without mentioning Putin by name, Poroshenko said Ukraine had been "stabbed in the back" and that Russia's annexation of Crimea earlier this year "was one of the most cynical acts of treachery in modern history."
I urge you not to let Ukraine stand alone in the face of this aggression."
Poroshenko recited a long list of European countries threatened by Russia and asked, "Who is the next?"
Arguing the world was "on the eve of a new Cold War," he said that the war that the young men of Ukraine were fighting against Russian-backed separatists was "not only Ukraine's war."
It is Europe's war, and it is America's war, too. It is a war for the free world. For the free world."
Lawmakers repeatedly interrupted Poroshenko with standing ovations, much as they do during presidential State of the Union addresses.
Poroshenko asked Congress to set up a special fund to support U.S. business investment in Ukraine and for other help to reform Ukraine's economy and justice systems.
While thanking the U.S. for the aid it had already sent, he said it was far from sufficient.
Blankets and night goggles are important, but one cannot win the war with a blanket. Even more, we cannot keep the peace with a blanket."
Lastly, Poroshenko said Ukraine was ready to "extend the hand of peace to Russia" but that it would never accept the annexation of Crimea or any "dismemberment" of Ukraine.
"The free world must stand its ground," he said. "With America's help, it will."
Poroshenko may not have mentioned Putin's name, but Boehner directed his statement responding to his speech straight at the Russian leader. He also signaled support for granting Poroshenko's request for aid.
Today, Vladimir Putin and the world saw Republicans and Democrats stand in unity with President Poroshenko and his people’s aspirations for freedom, democracy, and economic opportunity. Now we must answer his call for America’s leadership, not only in sentiment, but in action. We can start by imposing tougher sanctions, providing military and intelligence assistance, and breaking Russia’s energy stranglehold on Europe."
Poroshenko heads to the White House later Thursday for a meeting with President Obama.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.