Former NBU Governor Valeriya Gontareva has appealed to the West to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine on March 3 as a large Russian armoured column approaches the capital, threatening to take the fighting in the Ukraine war to a new and bloodier level.
Her call was echoed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who held a fraught press conference the same day making the same demand, where he looked tired and stressed.
Zelenskiy addressed Russian President Vladimir Putin directly in comments while on camera: "Good Lord, what do you want? Leave our land. If you don't want to leave now, sit down with me at the negotiating table. But not from 30 metres away, like with [French President Emmanuel] Macron and [German Chancellor Olaf] Scholz. Sit down with me and talk. What are you afraid of? We're no threat to anyone."
Zelenskiy went on to criticise the West’s half-hearted support for Ukraine, which has included some of the most severe sanctions ever imposed on Russia. But faced with an full-scale attack by the Russian army sanctions are insufficient to prevent the death and destruction arising from a Russian onslaught. Zelenskiy called on Nato to “close the sky” over Ukraine.
"If you can't close the sky now, then give a deadline when it will happen. If you can't do it now, tell me how many people have to explode, how many arms, legs, heads have to fly to reach you? Tell me how many. I'll go to count and wait for this moment," Zelenskiy told reporters.
If Russia presses the attack with its full force, Ukraine’s army will be left to fight the Russian army on its own in a one-sided conflict, as Nato has made it clear that it will not commit any forces to the conflict.
While the Ukrainian air force has done surprisingly well in the first week of the war, it is no match for Russia’s state-of-the-art fighter jets such as the fifth generation SU-35, which is a match for anything that even the US has.
Russia has not made full use of its superior airpower in the conflict so far, but is believed by military analysts to be able to destroy Ukraine’s limited airport in a matter of days. As the battle for Kyiv looms, Zelenskiy has called on the West to send jets to bolster Ukraine’s limited airpower.
Gontareva made the same point in an impassioned appeal to Ukraine’s Western allies. Below is the full text of her appeal published on the Vox Ukraine website:
“Stop hypocrisy of politicians, it is not just a local military conflict, it is a full-fledged bloody war with bombs, missiles, tanks and troops. Even Putin officially announced the war a week ago.
"The good news is that the Third World War is a war of the whole world against one crazy dictator!
"No doubt, that we will win that war but our victory should not be based on erasing a beautiful independent country Ukraine from the face of the Earth.
"Wake up! We do not need to wait for the punishment of The Hague tribunal and Nuremberg process for the maniac’s military crimes against humanity! In 21st century you see all these military crimes online and from your satellites.
"The bloody war must be stopped immediately!
"Putin knows that he crossed all red lines and there will be no forgiveness for his military crimes but we do not need to sacrifice Ukraine for your understanding of that.
"We need to protect the Earth from the insane maniac and stop to count whether Ukraine is a member of Nato or not. We need to do that to protect humanity!
"Just listen to Putin’s speech, he has already considered sanctions as atomic weapons against Russia and threatens the world with nuclear bombs. And he is absolutely right, now there are real devastating sanctions for Russian economy with seismic negative effects at all fronts.
"But all of that will not stop Putin from using nuclear weapons, it will only make him angry further as a wounded cornered beast. All history of our planet shows that trying to please the aggressor only encourages him. So, the rhetoric and policy of appeasing the aggressor is totally wrong."
"Yesterday the White House confirmed its commitment not to impose a no-fly zone above Ukraine, repeating the argument that “direct confrontation of Nato with Russia will lead to the World War III”.
"Nato has already started direct confrontation with Russia, providing huge military support to Ukraine and Putin knows that. Stop hypocrisy, Ukraine has now more Nato weapons than three-quarters of Nato member countries.
"Ukraine needs No-fly zone immediately! No-fly zone would not change the probability of a nuclear war, Putin knows that USA and Russia have together 90% of the world nuclear weapons.
"Moreover, it is unique chance to protect all countries and non-Nato members which are under risk, such as Finland and Sweden, and reconsider all existing international agreements and concepts in the world.
"Russia should be immediately withdrawn from membership of all international organisations as the country-aggressor, including UN, IMF, WB etc.
"World War III has already started. It’s pretty clear that Nato is already in direct confrontation with Russia. We do not need to wait when Putin physically destroys Ukraine and starts invasion into Latvia and Estonia, we need to act now!”