Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, on Monday, addressed the ongoing Davos Summit in Switzerland, during the World Economic Forum annual meeting, via a video link. Zelenskyy said that considering the Russian President Vladimir Putin decides everything, he will not accept meeting any other Russian official but him to talk about ending the armed conflict. Additionally, while highlighting the dire situation Ukraine is facing, he appealed for more weapons and “maximum sanctions” against Russia. President Zelenskyy also asked the allies to put pressure on Russia for a prisoner swap.
Amid the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Ukrainian president addressed the Davos Summit and said, “If we are talking about ending this war without him personally, that decision cannot be taken.” The Russia-Ukraine conflict is expected to be at the forefront of the conversation at the four-day gathering. The attendees of the Davos Summit include some of the world’s top business leaders, politicians, activists and opinion-makers.
Furthermore, he indicated that holding talks with Russia has been difficult in light of the reports of mass killings in areas currently under Russian control, particularly outside Kyiv. “I cannot accept any kind of meeting with anyone coming from the Russian Federation but the president… And only in the case when there is one issue on the (table): stopping the war. There are no other grounds for any other kind of meeting,” said President Zelenskyy.
Since the beginning of the invasion in February, Russia and Ukraine have held several rounds of peace talks, which have been between representatives and negotiators from each side, with little progress. On Monday, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko told reporters that they are looking over the Italian peace plan proposal to end the conflict in Ukraine.
“We have received it recently and are studying it,” said the foreign minister, while declining to share any further details. He indicated, “It has not been discussed between Russia and Italy.” Russia has also said that they would be willing to resume talks but it is Ukraine’s responsibility to do so, and that “freezing” the ongoing negotiations was not Russia’s initiative. “We will be ready to resume as soon as Ukraine shows a constructive position and at least provides a reaction to the proposals submitted to it,” said Rudenko.
President Zelenskyy highlighted the human price for Ukrainians at which the war is continuing, and said, “If we would have received 100 percent of our needs at once back in February, the result would have been tens of thousands of lives saved.” He stressed that Ukraine needs all the weapons that they asked for, and not just the ones provided to them. Zelenskyy also mentioned the Russian strike that killed 87 people on May 17, on a military base in northern Ukraine.
Ukrainian lawmaker Anastasia Radina, talking to the reporters, also mentioned how the country needs “NATO-style” weapons, including tanks and ground-based air defence systems. “What we are looking for most importantly are fighter jets and this has been the most difficult discussion,” she said. The lawmaker also called these discussions “outrageous”, citing that the country is three months into war, tens of thousands of lives have been lost, and yet things are still at the point of discussion.
During his address, President Zelenskyy also called for an oil embargo on Russia. “Maximum sanctions are needed (against Russia), and I think there are no such sanctions at present… there should be a full oil embargo. All Russian banks must be barred from global systems. The world must abandon Russia’s IT sector, and there should be no trade with Russia,” he said.
Zelenskyy also indicated how Ukraine is “ready for an exchange tomorrow”, urging his allies to put pressure on Moscow for an exchange of prisoners. The president said, “The exchange of people – this is a humanitarian matter today and a very political decision that depends on the support of many states. We do not need the Russian servicemen, we only need ours.”
Zelenskyy further asserted that Ukraine is offering the world a chance to set a precedent for what happens when you destroy a neighbouring country, and how they can now be a part of the “rebuilding of Ukraine”. He added, “Any company which leaves Russia is welcome to move to the Ukraine market,” and that companies would benefit by “truly supporting freedom”. The Ukrainian president also received a standing ovation for his speech from the attendees.
This year’s Davos Summit is taking place after two years, owing to the pandemic. Reportedly, Ukraine has sent a team of officials, including the country’s foreign minister, to appeal for more aid for the country. The summit saw more than 50 heads of state and governments among the 2,500 delegates at the World Economic Forum.
Notably, Russian business and political leaders have been barred by the summit’s organisers because of the conflict in Ukraine. This led to Ukrainians changing “Russia House”, the name used by the Russian delegation in Davos, into “Russia War Crimes House”.
The summit’s theme this year is “History at a Turning Point”. President Zelenskyy urged the delegates to not use this year’s theme “only as a rhetoric” but to take decisive action against Russia, the lack of which would imply that “brute force will rule the world”.