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What is a no-fly zone and how would it benefit Ukraine?

(NEXSTAR) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has again pleaded with U.S. lawmakers to establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine amid Russia’s attack, but leaders seem unlikely Westerners are reconsidering their decision.

In his virtual address to Congress on Wednesday, Zelenskyy said Russia had “turned the skies of Ukraine into a source of death” for thousands of people.

“Is that a lot to ask? Create a no-fly zone over Ukraine to save people? Is that too much to ask?” he asked in his address. “A humanitarian no-fly zone, something Russia wouldn’t be able to terrorize our free cities?”

In recent weeks, however, NATO countries had decided not to implement a no-fly zone over Ukraine, warning that such a move would provoke a much larger war in Europe. Russian President Vladimir Putin has also said that countries that align themselves with Ukraine in establishing a no-fly zone will be considered participants in the war.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki, speaking to reporters on Tuesday, added that White House officials “do not agree with the argument” that a no-fly zone would be even effective, despite Zelenskyy’s demands.

So what exactly would a no-fly zone do?

A no-fly zone would effectively mean that Ukraine’s airspace would be closed to unauthorized aircraft, possibly preventing airstrikes on Ukrainian citizens and cities. This, however, would mean that Ukrainian skies would have to be monitored and patrolled by fighter jets and other aircraft to watch for aerial threats. It is also possible that these aircraft will be forced to shoot down any Russian aircraft entering Ukrainian airspace.

“We understand [Ukraine’s] desperation, but we also believe that if we did that we would end up with something that could end in a full-fledged war in Europe,” NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg said earlier this month. . “We have a responsibility as NATO allies to prevent this war from spreading beyond Ukraine.”

Also, establishing a no-fly zone over Ukraine might not be as effective as it looks, as some of the Russian attacks on Ukraine were launched from airspace. Russian, using long-range missiles capable of traveling thousands of kilometres.

Zelenskyy, likely aware his request for a no-fly zone would not be granted, offered an “alternative” in his Tuesday speech to Congress: fighter jets and air defenses.

“You know how much depends on the battlefield, the ability to use aircraft, powerful and stronger air force to protect our people, our freedom, our land,” he said.

It is unclear whether Zelenskyy’s words will affect US involvement in Russia’s attack on Ukraine. The day before, however, the White House had said it had no plans to provide aircraft for the defense of Ukraine.

“Providing the planes – our military made an assessment based not only on the risk, but also on whether it would bring them a huge benefit,” Psaki told reporters at a press briefing. “They felt it wouldn’t be because they have their own aircraft squadron and because the kind of military assistance that works to fight this war effectively is the kind of assistance we already provide.”


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