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Zelenskyy tells Davos: We want more sanctions and more weapons

DAVOS, Switzerland — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday urged the global community to impose further sanctions on Russia, as he accused the West of costing tens of thousands of lives by not targeting Russia earlier. 

During a virtual address to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Zelenskyy called for an immediate ban on Russian oil — a barely veiled reference to the EU’s ongoing failure to agree on a sixth package of sanctions which initially aimed to include Russian oil.   

“There should be a Russian oil embargo, all the Russian banks should be blocked,” Zelenskyy said, while demanding that international businesses completely pull out of Russia. 

He also lambasted leaders for not imposing sanctions back in February before the war started, despite the Ukrainian government’s pleas. “Sanctions should be preventative; not just imposed as a response,” he said, contending that if the full range of measures had been applied against Russia, it would have prevented war. 

“Support to the country under attack is most valuable the sooner it provides funding. If we had received sanctions, at once, back in February the result would be tens of thousands of lives saved,” he added.

Zelenskyy also called for all Russian assets to be seized or frozen, and then allocated to a special fund that would be used to help all those affected by the war — an idea already mooted by the European Union. 

Despite the EU’s struggle in reaching consensus on a sixth round of sanctions, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen got a shout-out from the Ukrainian president, who thanked her for proposing a new program for the reconstruction of Ukraine. But he stressed that the country needs $5 billion a day, as he called for more weapons and funding. 

Asked by World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab about what his main requests would be to all the leaders in the room, Zelenskyy replied: “A thousand of them. I’m not sure if I would have time. Ukraine is short of time.” 

Russian pall

The war in Ukraine, and its economic and political fallout, is the key theme of this year’s World Economic Forum, the first in-person gathering of global leaders and chief executives at the Swiss Alpine resort since January 2020.

Among the Ukrainian representatives in attendance are Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Digital Minister Mykhailo Federov, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, several members of the Ukrainian parliament, and the mayors of Bucha and Mariupol. 

While the annual gathering in Switzerland was traditionally a magnet for Russian oligarchs, the forum has cut ties with Russia following its invasion of Ukraine. 

Russia House, situated on the main promenade in Davos, has been transformed into “Russian War Crimes House,” which is now hosting an exhibition on Russian crimes in Ukraine, including 4,600 photos of civilian death and destruction. 

Speaking by satellite at the official launch of the exhibition on Monday morning, Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Iryna Venediktova, said that war crimes were taking place in Ukraine each day. ”Peace and justice are two sides of the same coin,” she said. “Heinous crimes are being committed by Russian forces in Ukraine.” 

Among the other themes at this year’s conference are climate change, food security, cryptocurrency and the cost-of-living crisis. 

The number of attendees is down this year. Von der Leyen will speak Tuesday, while NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is also in town.

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