Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy took center stage at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland on Monday, making an impassioned plea for continued support in Ukraine’s fight against Russia’s invasion.
Zelenskyy Warns Against “Freezing” the Conflict
In the opening address to world leaders and corporate executives gathered in the Swiss mountain resort town, Zelenskyy warned strongly against attempts to “freeze” the nearly year-old conflict to secure a short-term peace.
“The world is at a critical point where concessions to Putin will only lead to more war,” Zelenskyy said. “Freezing the conflict with Russia will mean a cruel war will continue. It will put off the inevitable – the defeat of the invasion.”
The Ukrainian leader, making only his second foreign trip since the February 2022 invasion, said efforts should remain firmly focused on repelling Russian forces from all occupied territory.
“A frozen war means delayed suffering, torture in the occupied territory…It is impossible to freeze the war when there are shells exploding in Kharkiv and the energy infrastructure that provides heat and light is being destroyed,” he told delegates.
Zelenskyy said ending the conflict now would simply allow Russia to rebuild and mount another attack later under more favorable conditions.
Zelenskyy Presses Allies for Increased Military Aid
The president also used the Davos platform to continue pressing Western allies to step up military assistance, saying his forces cannot achieve victory without additional weaponry and equipment.
“We need to hurry up. We need speed – speed of our agreements, speed of our delivery…speed of decisions to limit Russian potential,” Zelenskyy urged. “The supplies of Western tanks is an important signal but is that enough? Honestly no.”
He specifically cited the need for long-range missiles, modern tanks, and greater air capability to match Russia’s numerical advantage in sheer manpower.
|Military Aid Requested by Zelenskyy
|Fighter jets and air defense
|Ammunition and artillery
So far European allies and the United States have committed nearly $50 billion in security assistance over the past year. But Zelenskyy insisted Ukraine’s requirements will only continue growing as the active fighting drags on.
Zelensky Lashes Out at Putin
The Ukrainian leader spared no harsh words for his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin as well, mocking the Kremlin’s narrative that it is protecting Russians in eastern Ukraine who have suffered oppression.
“We are defending the values on which peaceful coexistence of different ethnic groups should be based,” he countered.
“In Ukraine there has never been aggression against culture, language or identity of Russians or anyone else. Protecting what? From whom is he protecting the Russians?”
Zelensky depicted Putin as a ruthless aggressor bent on domination no matter the human cost, who “wants war to continue despite the suffering it causes.”
Zelenskyy Pushes Investment Opportunities
Alongside requests for military aid, Zelenskyy also took time in Davos to promote investment opportunities in Ukraine once the active fighting ends. He met with numerous political leaders and banking executives over two days in the mountain resort town.
The president highlighted assets like Ukraine’s highly educated workforce and its extensive natural resources. He predicted a quick economic rebound once stability returns.
“Ukraine has always been one of the drivers of development in Central and Eastern Europe,” he told business leaders. “That is why you need to invest in Ukraine, so that your companies can enter the Ukrainian market and develop their business here.”
He urged the executives gathered not to wait out the war but to get involved now.
Support from Top U.S. and EU Officials
Zelenskyy’s calls for increased backing were echoed by top diplomats from Ukraine’s staunchest supporters – the United States and European Union.
In a meeting on the sidelines of the Davos gathering, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reassured the Ukrainian leader of Washington’s “enduring and unflinching support” for as long as needed.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell likewise pledged the bloc’s continued solidarity in a separate meeting with Zelenskyy.
“Putin is waiting for the Western world to get tired of supporting Ukraine,” Borrell said following the discussion. “We will not get tired. We will continue supporting Ukraine.”
The vocal reaffirmations of support indicate Ukraine can continue counting on billions more in weapons supplies from its allies in 2023 despite some forecasts that aid could dwindle.
Outlook: Mounting Costs and Uncertainty Ahead
As the war approaches its one-year mark next month, both sides continue preparing for a drawn-out conflict whose costs will continue mounting in 2023.
Zelenskyy’s exhortations in Davos highlight that while Ukraine has proven far more resilient than Putin anticipated, its resources are being steadily drained. Continued economic and humanitarian aid will remain vital in addition to military assistance.
The diffuse peace talks in Davos meanwhile underscore the wide uncertainty ahead. With neither side willing to yield, the conflict risks becoming a bloody and bankrupting stalemate for years. Much could hinge on whether Ukraine’s allies retain the political will to finance Kyiv’s defense through a prolonged war.
So Zelenskyy’s lobbying efforts in the rarefied Davos air will undoubtedly continue as he works furiously to prevent any erosion of support. Ukraine’s survival likely depends on keeping the world focused squarely on the brutal invasion Putin first unleashed nearly 12 months ago.
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