Volodymyr Zelenskyy calls for more sanctions on Russia during speech in Davos

Volodymyr Zelenskyy calls for more sanctions on Russia during speech in Davos

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses the audience from Kyiv on a screen during the World Economic Forum in Davos. Picture: Markus Schreiber/AP

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for “maximum” sanctions against Russia during a virtual speech to corporate executives, government officials and other elites on the first day of the World Economic Economic gathering in Davos.

He said sanctions need to go further to stop Russia’s aggression, including an oil embargo, blocking all of its banks and cutting off trade with Russia completely.

He said it is a precedent that would work for decades.

“This is what sanctions should be: they should be maximum, so that Russia and every other potential aggressor that wants to wage a brutal war against its neighbour would clearly know the immediate consequences of their actions,” Mr Zelenskyy said through a translator.

He also pushed for the complete withdrawal of foreign companies from Russia to prevent supporting its war and said Ukraine needs at least £4 billion in funding per month.

“The amount of work is enormous: we have more than half a trillion of dollars in losses, tens of thousands of facilities were destroyed. We need to rebuild entire cities and industries,” Mr Zelenskyy said, days after the Group of Seven leading economies agreed to provide £15.7bn in economic aid.

He said that if Ukraine had “received 100% of our needs at once, back in February” in terms of weapons, funding, political support and sanctions against Russia, “the result would be tens of thousands of lives saved”.

Mr Zelenskyy’s speech was a key focus on Monday in Davos, the village in the Swiss Alps that has been transformed into a glitzy venue for the four-day confab ostensibly dedicated to making the world a better place.

The event resumed in person after a two-year hiatus because of the Covid-19 pandemic, which also delayed this year’s meeting from its usual winter slot.

For the attendees, there is much to tackle amid soaring food and fuel prices, Russia’s war in Ukraine, climate change, inequality and persistent health crises.

But it is hard to predict if the high-minded discussions will yield substantial announcements that make headway on the world’s most pressing challenges.

“This war is really a turning point of history, and it will reshape our political and our economic landscape in the coming years,” said the event’s founder, Klaus Schwab.

Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko, left, and his brother Wladimir listen to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (Markus Schreiber/AP)

Mr Zelenskyy, who received a standing ovation after this remarks, reiterated that Russia was blocking critical food supplies, such as wheat and sunflower oil, from leaving its ports.

Ukraine, along with Russia, is a major exporter of wheat, barley and sunflower oil, and the interruption of those supplies is threatening food insecurity in countries in Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia that rely on those affordable supplies.

The head of the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) called for Ukraine’s ports to reopen, saying the region’s farmers “grow enough food to feed 400 million people”.

If such supplies remain off the market, the world could face a food availability problem in the next 10 to 12 months, and “that is going to be hell on Earth”, WFP executive director David Beasley told The Associated Press.

He warned that there are “49m (people) knocking on famine’s door right now in 43 countries”, including Yemen, Lebanon, Mali, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Congo, Guatemala and El Salvador.

Mr Beasley called on the world’s top billionaires to aid efforts to prevent hunger: “The world is in real serious trouble. This is not rhetoric and BS. Step up now because the world needs you.”

Klaus Schwab, president and founder of the World Economic Forum, delivers his opening speech (Markus Schreiber/AP)

Besides Mr Zelenskyy’s speech, a sizeable Ukrainian government delegation is attending in person, making their case for more western support in the country’s fight against Russia.

Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko pointed to the audience during a panel with his brother, Wladimir, and said: “We are defending you personally.”

“We are fighting, first of all, for values” and to be part of the democratic world, he said.

“And right now everyone has to be proactive because we pay for that — the biggest prize, human lives every day.”

Russian officials have not been invited to Davos this year, with what was dubbed the “Russia House” having been transformed by critics — including Ukrainian tycoon Victor Pinchuk and the country’s Foreign Ministry — into what they call the “Russia War Crimes House”.

The venue features photographs of crimes and cruelties that Russian forces are accused of perpetuating.

While Ukraine will capture attention on the meeting’s first day, climate and environmental issues will be a constant theme, with panels on extreme weather, efforts to reach “net zero” emissions and finding cleaner sources of energy.

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