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Video of Senator Sasse's speech is available here or by clicking the image above.

U.S. Senator Ben Sasse, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, spoke on the Senate floor telling the story of the Ukrainian freedom fighters on Snake Island and renewing his calls for the United States to expedite the delivery of actionable intelligence and lethal weapons to the Ukrainian government.

The Snake Island guards they refuse to give an inch. One Ukrainian after conversing with some of his colleagues a little bit on a recording that many who may have now heard, decided to turn up the volume and he announced, 'Russian warship, ****.' The Russians decided to open fire on the island, pounding it with heavy ordnance and eventually, troops would storm the beach and capture the garrison. But that one sentence, 'Russian warship, ****.' That is now the rallying cry of the Ukrainian resistance...

But it is not just the Ukrainians who are going to be burying their dead. Russians are going to be burying many of their sons as well. Thousands of Russians, many of whom are conscripts, will have died needlessly for Vladimir Putin's lies and his vanity. Putin told Russian parents that their sons were off on training exercise, and that they would be welcomed as heroes at the end of these exercises. He didn't tell them they'd be shot, lit on fire, blown to bits, he didn't say these things because he's a liar...

While we applaud the bravery of Ukrainians, we should not overlook the humanity of these Russians who will also die. For the West’s battle, freedom's battle, is not with Russian moms who didn't even know their boys were being deployed, women who would not desire to have the dictator Putin send their sons to ruin. Human beings are made in the image of God and they're dying, and Vladimir Putin alone bears responsibility. His evil ambitions are destroying not just Ukrainian bodies and souls, but also Russian bodies and souls. And this conflict, this chosen war of aggression by Vladimir Putin is disgusting. And if he actually cared for anything bigger than his ego, if he actually cared for his people, if he actually cared for his nation, the generations of Russians who this war is going to impoverish, then he would find an off ramp now. That's what a bigger man would do...

But Ukraine's heroes, despite the dark nights that are ahead, their heroes deserve our reverence. While it is ugly in Ukraine, their stories need to be told around the world, by free people who believe in human dignity. For there is a great pantheon of freedom fighters across time, men and women who've died fighting tyrants, and we should tell their story, we must celebrate their cause, and we should arm them with as many javelins, stingers, and rifles as they can possibly use. We should ship them rations and ammo, and we should share actionable intelligence in real time with them so they can try to repel the invading force. For as long as they are fighting tyrants, America stands with them, and America will arm them, and I'm convinced that this Senate will rise to the call to arm these Ukrainian freedom fighters in memory of those boys and Snake Island and all those who are joining in their throng. Glory to Ukraine. Glory to her heroes. America stands with you.

Full transcript below.  

"Thank you, Madam President,

Madam President, it’s a little after 4am in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, and President Zelensky is still fighting. Ukrainians are still fighting and Americans need to know their stories. Ukrainians need us to tell their stories.

This story starts, of course, with an unjust, unprovoked invasion. The people of Ukraine posed no threat, they provoked no violence. They lived freely on Russia’s southwest border, with their iconic wheat fields. Many of us have been to Ukraine, many of us have made friends there. We also have Ukrainian-American friends back in our states. Living freely on the Southwest border of Russia was enough to provoke the small man, the tyrant of Russia, to hatred. It's bizarre. They lived in freedom and so Putin decided he was threatened. Vladimir Putin, Russia’s desperate Nebuchadnezzar, thought he could crush Ukraine. He thought he could break their spirit. He thought he could put his boot on their neck. He actually thinks that freedom makes people soft so he thought it would be easy. 

He was wrong.

Over the last week, Ukrainians have shown us their fighting spirit. They have shown the world their fighting spirit. They are standing firm against onslaught after onslaught, including the relentless targeting of civilian populations. Outmanned and outgunned, the Ukrainian army is making Putin pay pints of blood for every inch his army advances.

The truth is, Putin didn't expect to encounter much resistance. He looked back on his experience in the Donbas, where he took big swaths of territory with a few dozen bullets and he was convinced that the Ukrainian people would fold in the face of his giant army. He’s been caught off-guard, and his plans have been set back. He didn’t anticipate the bravery. He didn’t anticipate passion. He didn’t anticipate heroism. He didn’t anticipate the Ukrainian people.

He didn’t anticipate the way ordinary villagers would stand against occupiers– like the one small woman who approached a group of Russian soldiers and began handing them handfuls of sunflower seeds. Why? She told it was so that flowers, something beautiful, could grow on the places where their bodies rot after they were killed in Ukraine.

She spoke for all Ukrainians. She spoke for the Kyiv grandmas arming up with AK-47s. She spoke for the grandpas who were having to reenlist in their late years. She spoke for the students now learning how to make Molotov cocktails. She spoke for the fathers who had to kiss their children goodbye as they head back to the front lines of battle. And she's speaking prophetically in advance for the mothers who are going to bury many of those sons.

The truth is that Putin has been embarrassed over the past five or six days by the Ukrainians. Modern tyrants have developed a few strategies to fight truth-telling. The Chinese Communist Party's version is tried to suppress all information, choke it off. Make sure no one ever says anything that is true. Others, like in Russia, decide to blast a billion lies through state-run media, hoping that they can just blot out the truth. Sow so much confusion and nonsense that people can't find the needle in the haystack that is the truth. 

But in the middle of this crisis, these strategies are failing because people are hungry for stories. People need stories, we need stories. And the best and the most powerful stories, are almost always the true stories. And right now Ukraine is retelling an age old story of good and evil. And the reason their story is so powerful is because they're telling a true story. 

If we were to stand here tonight, Senator Portman and I and many others. I've been in the SCIF today for many, many hours. I've been there four or five times and most of us have been there the last hour and a half or two hours. And if we were to tell every story of Ukrainian bravery, the Senate wouldn't have time to get anything else done this week. 

But there's one story that stands out over the course of this last week since Putin began his unjust invasion. And it has given rise for the courageous Ukrainian resistance to find for themselves a new motto, and this is the story of Snake Island.

There's this little island in the Black Sea, near the mouth at the bottom of the Danube Delta. It's called Snake Island. And it's really small, but it's both strategically and symbolically important because it marks the boundary of Ukraine's territorial waters. Ukraine has always stationed a small number of border guards on this island to keep watch. In 2019, the current president, Zelensky, went to this tiny little piece of rock and he declared this island, like the rest of our territory, is Ukrainian land and we will defend it with all our might. Nobody in 2019 knew he was speaking prophecy. But right now, over the course of the last week, the world has seen and the world has heard the story, the world has heard the recording of what those 13 Ukrainian heroes did last Thursday as they sought to defend that little piece of rock because it was symbolically important, as all of Ukraine was, and it's not Russia.

Shortly after Putin ordered his troops to attack Ukraine, two Russian naval vessels approached Snake Island and their intent was to seize it. The Russian commander ordered the Ukrainian border guards that they must surrender. He thought he could intimidate them, but like their ultimate commander-in-chief, the dictator, the liar Putin, he was wrong. He couldn't intimidate these men. And so he announced that they needed to surrender or they would be fired upon. Well, the Snake Island guards they refuse to give an inch. One Ukrainian after conversing with some of his colleagues a little bit on a recording that many who may have now heard, decided to turn up the volume and he announced, “Russian warship, ****.” 

The Russians decided to open fire on the island, pounding it with heavy ordnance and eventually, troops would storm the beach and capture the garrison. But that one sentence, “Russian warship, ****.” That is now the rallying cry of the Ukrainian resistance. It was heard this morning, when a Georgian gas station on the sea decided that it wouldn't refuel a Russian ship. And when the Russian ships said, what are you talking about? And they said, no, you're the bad guys, and the Russian said, why can we just put politics aside just let us buy some gas. And these Georgians decided to repeat the new Ukrainian motto back to the gas station and said get the hell out of here. And the gas station pulled away and said Russian warship you guys look strong enough, why don't you row?

That sentence sums up the spirit of countless courageous, brave Ukrainians and what they're doing as they stand in the face of the much larger invading forces. Snake Island is incomprehensible to a man like Vladimir Putin. He doesn't understand human dignity. He doesn't understand courage. He doesn't understand principle. He's too small.

He doesn't understand why people would fight for freedom. This is a man who spent the last 30 years, 20 of them now as the ruler, fighting to return Russia to tyranny, fighting to take away the freedom of this people, fighting to take away the liberty and freedom of those on Russia's borders. He doesn't want any of his near neighbors to know freedom. He thinks tyranny is the order of things. And again, he's wrong.

Unlike Putin though, our people, the reason so many Americans have been rallying to the Ukrainian cause over the course of the last week. Our people fully understand the spirit of Snake Island. We may not know Snake Island geographically, but we understand what is beating in the heart of the people who now want to echo that motto. We breathe freedom. We believe in the ideas of the Declaration of Independence -- we strive to create a more perfect union, where everyone is recognized as having been created equal. We often fail in our execution but it is our aspiration to affirm universal human dignity and the destiny of people to be free. For we believe that every human is created in the image of God. And there's nothing government can do to erase that. We have no love for strong men and tyrants. We understand the men of Snake Island in a way that Vladimir Putin cannot. For we believe in human dignity. We believe in universal rights, we believe in in freedom from oppression. What we love, Vladimir Putin hates.

Today, Ukraine is standing against a dictator who rejects each and every one of the principles that we've affirmed in our creedal founding documents. The Defenders of Snake Island, and indeed all the members of the Ukrainian resistance now are looking to add their names to the list of heroes from the warriors at Thermopylae to the activists who brought down the Iron Curtain. This heroism is timeless.

Loving freedom didn't make Snake Island’s defenders weak, though they were outgunned. They were strong. The Ukrainians are fighting for a reason; love of country, hatred of oppression, and the aim they have to pass on a free Ukraine to their children for generations to come. 

This National Resistance expressed so eloquently by these guards of Snake Island has also come to find itself embodied in another one of the great new heroes on the global stage. And that is President Zelensky. Just a few years ago this man was an actor and a comedian. Now though, he's shown such bravery that we see his name listed alongside heroes and great statesmen like Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle.

As Russian troops bore down on Kyiv, Zelensky could have chosen to flee his country. You might have read some reports that the US State Department allegedly offered to evacuate him and his family, but instead Zelensky chose that he would stay on the frontlines and lead his people. “The fight is here,” he said, “I need ammunition not a ride.”

Putin, meanwhile, is off hiding in a bunker trembling in fear of his own people. People are marching in the streets to oppose his pointless war and his only response is to try to choke off their speech and to imprison them. Zelensky, on the other hand, fights shoulder to shoulder with the men and women who are trying to defend his country, you may have seen him breaking bread with some guys this morning. He's putting his life on the line for his country and he's not backing down and his bravery has changed the world this week. 

We don't know how things are going to unfold over the course of the next weeks and months, but Zelensky has changed the trajectory this week of Germany, of Finland, of Sweden, of Switzerland, and of kids all over this 7.8 billion person planet. Zelensky is a symbol, and as a courageous man has already changed the world. He's a bigger man than Putin. The whole world knows that. Putin's own army knows that, even Putin's cronies now know that.

But it is not just the Ukrainians who are going to be burying their dead. Russians are going to be burying many of their sons as well. Thousands of Russians, many of whom are conscripts, will have died needlessly for Vladimir Putin's lies and his vanity. Putin told Russian parents that their sons were off on training exercise, and that they would be welcomed as heroes at the end of these exercises. He didn't tell them they'd be shot, lit on fire, blown to bits; he didn't say these things because he's a liar.

While we applaud the bravery of Ukrainians, we should not overlook the humanity of these Russians who will also die. For the West’s battle, freedom's battle, is not with Russian moms who didn't even know their boys were being deployed, women who would not desire to have the dictator Putin send their sons to ruin. Human beings are made in the image of God and they're dying, and Vladimir Putin alone bears responsibility. His evil ambitions are destroying not just Ukrainian bodies and souls, but also Russian bodies and souls. And this conflict, this chosen war of aggression by Vladimir Putin is disgusting.

And if he actually cared for anything bigger than his ego, if he actually cared for his people, if he actually cared for his nation, the generations of Russians who this war is going to impoverish, then he would find an off ramp now. That's what a bigger man would do. 

Ukraine, on the other hand, is not the aggressor here. We're seeing people fighting for their survival because Putin has given them no other choice, and his thugs will keep on killing innocents until they are expelled from Ukraine's borders.

We obviously don't know how history will unfold here, but we do know that truth is on the Ukrainian side. And the truth is this: that the boys of Snake Island, and President Zelensky, and the broader Ukrainian National Resistance are mounting a defense of freedom unlike anything the West has seen since the end of the Cold War. 

And that's why this story of Snake Island matters. It's why Zelensky’s bravery is so important not just for Ukraine, but for the whole world. And it's why that little woman’s sunflower seeds are so inspiring for ordinary Ukrainians responding to Putin's aggression with extraordinary heroism. We should be in awe of what our friends are accomplishing.

Make no mistake, though, war is not an abstraction. Our 21st century jargon about “kinetic action” and “lethal force” tries to paper over a reality as old as Cain and Abel. War is young men and young women, struggling for a last gasp of air while the blood soaks into the mud, war is started by the old but usually waged by the young and no one in their right mind would ever wish for war.

For it is ugly, but the cause can be necessary, and in this case, the Ukrainian cause is just. Their war for their country, for their freedom, and for their kids’ futures is just. The Ukrainians are willing to shed their blood for their cause, just as importantly, they are willing to soak the streets with the blood of Russians who've been sent by the comfortable tyrant Putin, who sends his people to die pointlessly far from home, while he consumes the billions that he has stolen from those same people. 

Let's be steely eyed about the coming days and weeks because things tonight, at 4:30 in the morning in Ukraine, are ugly, and they're going to get much, much worse. But Ukraine's heroes, despite the dark nights that are ahead, their heroes deserve our reverence. While it is ugly in Ukraine, their stories need to be told around the world, by free people who believe in human dignity. For there is a great pantheon of freedom fighters across time; men and women who've died fighting tyrants, and we should tell their story, we must celebrate their cause.

And we should arm them with as many Javelins, Stingers, and rifles as they can possibly use. We should ship them rations and ammo, and we should share actionable intelligence in real time with them so they can try to repel the invading force. For as long as they are fighting tyrants, America stands with them, and America will arm them, and I'm convinced that this Senate will rise to the call to arm these Ukrainian freedom fighters in memory of those boys and Snake Island and all those who are joining in their throng.
 
Glory to Ukraine. Glory to her heroes. America stands with you. 

Thank you, Madam President.