Zelenskyy former aide says lack of no-fly zone signals US, NATO are 'afraid' of Putin
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Iuliia Mendel, the former spokesperson for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said the United States’ and NATO’s firm stance against a no-fly zone over Ukraine signals that the West is "afraid" of attacks from Russian President Vladimir Putin and creates a "decay of global confidence in American leadership and superpowers."
Mendel, in an interview with Fox News Digital, stressed Ukraine’s appreciation for American military and financial assistance and support, but urged the West to reconsider initiating a no-fly zone as Putin continues his multi-front war in the country for a fifteenth day.
"Ukrainians are being killed from the sky, and of course, Ukrainian authorities are supporting no-fly zones … This is something that could stop the killing of Ukrainians immediately," Mendel told Fox News. "This is very important from the point of view of Putin, when he said to NATO, ‘If you don’t allow us killing Ukrainians from the sky, then we will attack you.’"
Mendel said the U.S. and NATO repeatedly rejecting calls for a no-fly zone over Ukraine tells Putin, "Yes, I am actually afraid of you attacking me, please kill them above, and we will see, if you do your best, then probably you won’t come for us.'"
A local retiree, Nataliya Mykolaivna, 64, gestures as she talks to an AFP journalist next to a minibus that had been delivering supplies and gifts to frontline soldiers, volunteers and hard-pressed residents. The minibus was destroyed by Russian shelling at a short distance from the frontline in Horenka, northern Kyiv, March 10, 2022. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP via Getty Images)
"This is ridiculous," Mendel said. "This really shows that there is this decay of global confidence in American leadership and superpowers. NATO countries are afraid to irritate Putin.
"He is the monkey with the grenade. Do you think you can control him throwing or dropping the grenade?" she asked. "Moldova, Poland, the Baltic States understand that Putin’s disrespect for the Western world order is so deep that he will not be stopped by the EU or NATO membership when, or if, he gets Ukraine."
But Mendel said that "countries farther away seem to feel more comfortable, realizing that the evil is far away and the Ukrainians can defeat it — at the cost of their own lives."
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Russia’s all-out invasion of Ukraine only eight months after TIME magazine billed President Biden as ready to take on the Russian leader. (Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
She told Fox News that "time flows differently in war," noting that Zelenskyy receives news "every minute of new dead, wounded and new bombings."
"Our women give birth in bomb shelters, Ukraine has become a country of refugees, and NATO is still wavering in its military support," she said.
Mendel, though, stressed that "the United States is not guilty in what is going on," adding that Ukraine appreciates "the help of Americans and everything they’ve done."
Mendel said the U.S. has "shared some intelligence" with Ukraine and continues to "stand for us and support us in this situation."
"We would ask for the United States and NATO to stand for us about the sky, to save our lives, this is the most important for us," she said. "If NATO is something worth entering, then NATO needs to help us now — now, when we have so many casualties that probably could be questioning about the necessity of entering NATO."
Biden and NATO have ruled out a no-fly zone over Ukraine, saying enforcing it would put the U.S. and NATO in direct confrontation with Russia and would expand the conflict.
Children have sheltered underground in Ukraine amid the Russian invasion (Oleksandra Ustinova MP)
Ukraine is not a member of NATO, so it is not subject to the Article V provision of the NATO alliance that says when one member country is attacked, all member countries will take action to assist.
Mendel stressed that "Putin is the only person to be accused in this invasion."
"The United States has provided a lot of support, as has the whole civilized world, and definitely, Ukraine wouldn’t be able to stand against Russia alone," she said. "A big part of our capacities to defeat Putin is actually the support we get from the U.S. and our partnering countries."
Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Warsaw, Poland, Thursday, and in a joint news conference with Poland President Andrzej Duda highlighted the U.S. House of Representatives' vote to send $13 billion in aid to Ukraine and European allies. She also announced that the U.S. would provide $53 million more to the U.N. World Food Program.
Harris was ridiculed, though, for her response to a question about how the United States could assist in the plight of Ukrainian refugees. More than 1 million refugees have fled from Ukraine to Poland since Russia invaded on Feb. 24.
Harris did not appear eager to answer the inquiry, turning toward Duda and saying, "A friend in need is a friend indeed," before laughing for several seconds. Duda eventually capitulated and answered his question first, saying he had asked Harris to help speed the process of Ukrainian refugees obtaining U.S. visas in order to stay with family in the States.
Ukrainian emergency employees and volunteers carry an injured pregnant woman from a maternity hospital damaged by shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
Harris later said she understood the "unprecedented" situation presented to the Polish government but did not say how many refugees the U.S. would be willing to take.
Mendel, reacting, told Fox News that "Harris’ communication, that might be treated as not appropriate."
"But she stands for Ukraine with her actions, not words," Mendel said. "She is a president of the Senate, and the U.S. is going to approve billions of dollars to assist Ukraine, partially for the Army, partially for the humanitarian aid."
"So, despite of communication peculiarities, the U.S. shows its strong support in every action," Mendel said.
During the news conference, Harris and Duda insisted that the United States and Poland are "unified" after the U.S. rejected the country’s proposal to send MiG-29 planes to the Ukrainian military.
Members of Ukraine's Territorial Defense Forces, volunteer military units of the Armed Forces, train in a city park in Kyiv, Ukraine. (AP/Efrem Lukatsky)
Just hours after the Pentagon made clear that the U.S. does not support Poland’s proposal for the U.S. and NATO to deliver MiG-29s to the Ukrainian military, Harris and Duda maintained that the relationship between the United States and Poland has "become even stronger" amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
But Mendel urged the West to send military jets, saying Ukraine does "not have this time because time means lives," and stressed that "every hesitance" from the U.S. and NATO is "paid by the blood of Ukrainians."
As for Zelenskyy, Mendel said Ukrainians "understand that he is standing for our independence, for democratic values, and this is something that is shared throughout Ukraine."
"He actually has been quite a brave person in character, long ago, before there was the interest in him in this matter," she said. "This war just revealed part of the character that was not known to the majority of people."
Mendel said the president plans to stay in Kyiv, and "stay with the people."
Zelenskyy this week vowed not to leave Kyiv, going so far as to reveal that he was in his office as Russian forces continued their assault on Ukraine’s capital city.
In this March 8, 2022, image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office and posted on Instagram, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
"Definitely, up to now, he is making his location known to show Putin that he is on his land, people are behind him, and he is staying for his people," Mendel said.
"He hasn’t left Kiev, he hasn’t fled," Mendel said. "In Afghanistan, the leadership of Afghanistan left the country when it became hot there, and there was the Taliban invasion."
She added that Zelenskyy’s location "is a very symbolic place to show that Ukraine is still independent, and we are fighting, and he is standing for us as our president."
"We are proud of this," she said, noting that she does not know if Zelenskyy will share his location in the future. "We don’t know what is going to happen."
Mendel said Ukrainians are "very much united" and "stand for our country, for us."
"Ukraine is the territory of freedom," she added. "Ukraine is the country where we have our dreams and plans and we see the future of this country.
"It is our home, and we want to build it."