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Putin calls sanctions a declaration of war as Zelenskyy pleads for more aid

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, issued strong words over the West's sanctions against his country as it continues its invasion of Ukraine. The remarks were issued during a meeting Saturday with employees of national airline Aeroflot.
Mikhail Klimentyev
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SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images
Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, issued strong words over the West's sanctions against his country as it continues its invasion of Ukraine. The remarks were issued during a meeting Saturday with employees of national airline Aeroflot.

Updated March 5, 2022 at 8:18 PM ET

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the financial penalties imposed on his country by the West amount to a declaration of war as Russia continues its attacks on Ukraine.

"These sanctions that are being imposed, they are akin to declaring war," Putin told a group of flight attendants near Moscow on Saturday, according to The Associated Press. "But thank God, we haven't got there yet."

In response to Russia's invasion in Ukraine, Western countries have put severe restrictions on Russia's central bank, barred companies from doing business in Russia, and have begun seizing oligarchs' yachts and luxury properties abroad.

Putin also said that any attempt to install a no-fly zone in Ukraine would cause catastrophic consequences for Europe and the world.

NATO has rejected Kyiv's request for a no-fly zone, reasoning that the step would provoke Russia into a waging a larger war that could pit the U.S. and its allies against the nuclear-armed country.

In a video posted on social media, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy slammed NATO over the decision.

"People who die from this day going forward will die, in part, because of you," he said.

Ukraine's leader makes an appeal directly to members of the U.S. Congress

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during a news conference in Kyiv on Thursday.
Sergei Supinsky / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during a news conference in Kyiv on Thursday.

Zelenskyy spoke with U.S. lawmakers, asking for a ban on buying Russian products — including oil and gas, U.S. congressional leaders said on social media. He also asked for more defense aid, including aircraft.

A source on the call tells NPR's Claudia Grisales that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer reassured Zelenskyy of bipartisan support for an emergency aid package.

"Senator McConnell and I along with the other members on this Zoom are working very hard in a bipartisan fashion to get all the assistance the administration has requested for the Ukrainian people. Together we will get that assistance of over $10 billion in economic, humanitarian and security assistance to the Ukrainian people quickly," Schumer said on the call, according to the source.

Schumer released a statement after the call specifically citing a plea for aircraft:

"President Zelenskyy made a desperate plea for Eastern European countries to provide Russian-made planes to Ukraine. These planes are very much needed. And I will do all I can to help the administration to facilitate their transfer."

By Saturday evening, the White House said it was working with Poland and other countries to help Ukraine acquire Soviet-era MiG aircraft. One option includes the plan to backfill Poland if it decides to transfer planes to Ukraine.

More than 280 lawmakers from both parties and chambers joined the call Saturday, according to Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Delegations are scheduled to meet for another round of talks

The White House is considering a "range of options" regarding Russian oil, including cutting imports, Cecilia Rouse, the chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, told reporters on Friday.

But Rouse said, "what's really most important is that we maintain a steady supply of global energy."

Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican, said he interpreted Zelenskyy's message as "close the skies or give us planes," and joined the call for supplying Ukraine with aircraft. But Sasse said a no-fly zone means risking "a battle between nuclear powers that could spiral out of control quickly."

Zelenskyy's call came after Russia had announced a temporary cease-fire — and then apparently broke it less than three hours later. The deal was to allow civilians to safely leave the cities of Mariupol and Volnovakha.

The Ukrainian and Russian delegations are scheduled to meet on Monday for a third round of talks.

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