He urged U.S. lawmakers to give him planes to fight Russia. The U.S. has asked Poland and other Eastern European nations to hand over their Russian-made fighter planes to Ukraine. They are also working on a plan for backfilling the planes with U.S.F-16s.
The Russian planes have the advantage that Ukrainian pilots can already fly them.
These planes can also be deployed much faster. According to one U.S. official, the administration told Poland that it has Russian-made MiGs available for its use because they don't require U.S. permission for transfer. However, any attempt to send new planes to Ukraine could be hindered by years of paperwork with defense contractors. Additionally, Congress must be notified before F-16 fighter jets made in America are transferred from NATO allies. The fighter jets will not immediately be of assistance to Ukrainian pilots who are not qualified to fly American planes.
According to Janes World Air Forces, Poland has 21 MiG-29s with single-seat capability and 6 MiG-29s with twin-seat capabilities.
Although U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has stated that the U.S. will allow the transfer of planes to Ukraine, and that the U.S. is in talks with Poland to replenish its aircraft inventory. Poland has yet to decide whether to proceed with the transfers. The chancellery of Poland's prime minister claimed that a story saying that Poland would offer Ukraine MiG-29s for U.S-made F-16s was fake news in a tweet.
It is not yet clear if Poland will turn over all its planes, or if they are in good working order.
Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, stated Monday that the U.S. was working with Poland and other NATO members on this issue but that it is "Poland's sovereign decision to take."
She also noted the logistical difficulties involved in physically moving the planes from Poland into Ukraine. Are they going to fly? From where will they fly? Where will they land? Those are all very important issues here," Psaki stated during the daily White House press conference.
Psaki also stated that it is difficult to backfill planes for European allies who send jets to Ukraine. "Because procuring new aircraft and transferring serious weapon systems can take many years from the United States, it can be a complicated logistical task."
CBS News spoke with Mark Cancian (retired Marine Colonel and senior advisor at The Center for Strategic and International Studies) about the origin of Poland's hesitation.
Cancian believes Poland will eventually agree to a deal for "two reasons." The first is the desire to help Ukraine. The second is that if Poland can get rid old Soviet aircraft and get F-16s from America, it's a great deal. They are keen to do this. They'll find a way to do that, between them.
Cancian pointed out that one problem with this plan is the vulnerability of these aircraft. They may not make as much impact as we expect. What good is it if we fly them into Ukraine, and then the Russians attack them with long-range missiles the next day? He noted that there was also a sense of symbolism at this point. There's a real ability there, but also a sense of symbolism.
After Zelensky had spoken with Congress, Senators Rob Portman & Jeanne Shaheen wrote a letter to President Biden asking him to send American-made aircrafts to European allies that supply Ukraine with Soviet-era airplanes. They identified Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Poland as the countries that are in discussions with the U.S. about transferring part their inventory to Ukraine's Air Force.
Biden's administration requested that $10 billion more be provided for Ukraine in the broad funding package which Congress will approve this week.
The Ukrainian Ambassador to America Oksana Markarova wrote Monday to legislators, and outlined Ukraine's demands for the legislation. She also requested that the U.S. take appropriate steps to provide Ukraine aircraft and defense systems.
According to a U.S. official, Monday's airspace over Ukraine is still contested. The Pentagon estimates that most of the Ukrainian fixed-wing aircraft are still available.
Although the Russians have been unable to advance on key populations centers in Ukraine, they continue to strike at civilian infrastructure.