West lacking 'unity' over Ukraine war, Volodymyr Zelensky says at Davos

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivers a statement by videolink during an event on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivers a statement by videolink during an event on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos | Photo Credit: AFP

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Wednesday that the West remained divided over the extent of its support for Ukraine in its defence against Russia's months-long invasion.

In his second online video appearance during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Mr. Zelensky repeated that his country needed more weapons to repel the Russian army.

"Unity is about weapons. My question is, is there this unity in practice? I can't see it. Our huge advantage over Russia would be when we are truly united," Mr. Zelensky told a traditional "Ukraine Breakfast" event on the sidelines of the WEF.

Washington and European countries have poured billions of dollars' worth of arms into Ukraine to help the country's outgunned forces beat back the better-armed Russian invaders.

Kyiv has called for greater support, membership in the U.S.-led NATO military alliance, and for a no-fly zone to be imposed over the country.

At the opening of the Davos summit on Monday, Mr. Zelensky called for more weapons and "maximum" sanctions against Russia, including an oil ban and an end to all trade with the country.

On Wednesday, Mr. Zelensky said Ukraine was grateful for support from U.S. President Joe Biden but said resolve was lagging closer to home.

"We are on the European continent and we need the support of a united Europe," he added.

Mr. Zelensky specifically named neighbouring Hungary, which has voiced opposition to a European Union-wide embargo on Russian oil, another key Ukrainian demand.

"Hungary is not as united as the rest of the EU," Mr. Zelensky said.

He also pointed to a lack of consensus over Sweden's and Finland's historic bid to join NATO, which has been called into question by Turkey.

"Is there this unity regarding the accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO? No, no. So, is there a strong joint West? No," the Ukrainian leader said.

Appearing in person at the same Davos event, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Ukraine wants the West to "to finally accept the idea that the ultimate goal of this war should be the victory of Ukraine."

"Even some very good friends of Ukraine who help us really a lot, they're still hesitant," Mr. Kuleba said.

"What is the end goal of their support to Ukraine? Is it not to allow Russia to win? Is it not to allow Ukraine to fail? No, the goal should be very simple and clear: Ukraine must win, full stop, period," he said.

Mr. Kuleba also called on the West to step up sanctions to "kill Russian exports".

"Every dollar and euro Russia makes on this trade is then invested on upholding the Putin regime and in keeping the Russian machine of war crimes running," he said.

Addressing concerns over Ukraine's inability to ship wheat and grains due to a Russian sea blockade, Mr. Kuleba held little hope that Western nations would offer naval escorts.

"If NATO didn't close the skies over Ukraine in the most tragic moments of the war ... why should they dare to close (the) Ukrainian sea to allow the free passage of vessels with Ukrainian agricultural products?" he said.

"I would wholeheartedly welcome the decision but I just don't see the stamina and the bravery to take all the risks associated with this operation."

Meanwhile, international sanctions imposed on Moscow over its military campaign in Ukraine need to be lifted to avoid a global food crisis, a Russian deputy foreign minister said on Wednesday.

"Solving the food problem requires a comprehensive approach, including the removal of sanctions that have been imposed on Russian exports and financial transactions," Andrey Rudenko said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies.

"It also requires Ukraine to de-mine all ports where ships are docked and Russia is ready to provide the necessary humanitarian passage," Mr. Rudenko added.

Russia's military campaign in Ukraine and a barrage of sanctions on Moscow over the offensive have disrupted supplies of fertilizer, wheat and other commodities from both countries.

The West has accused the Kremlin of using hunger as a weapon during its military operation in Ukraine and of stealing Ukrainian grain from Russia-controlled territories.

"I strongly deny this. We don't steal from anyone" Mr. Rudenko told reporters.

The senior diplomat also poured cold water on Lithuania's proposal to create a "coalition" of naval powers to escort Ukrainian cargo via the Black Sea.

This proposal "would seriously aggravate the situation in the Black Sea region," Mr. Rudenko said.

Russia and Ukraine alone produce 30% of the global wheat supply.

The United Nations has urged Russian authorities to release grain stuck in Ukrainian ports due to Moscow's military campaign.

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Printable version | May 25, 2022 9:54:03 pm |