Ukraine war: Zelensky centre stage in Davos as he rallies support for fight against Russia and ‘predator’ Putin

Ukraine war: Zelensky centre stage in Davos as he rallies support for fight against Russia and ‘predator’ Putin

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky huddled with corporate executives and world leaders in a frenzied first full day of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, where top officials from the United States, the European Union, China, the Middle East and beyond spoke on Tuesday about tackling conflict and embracing technology like artificial intelligence.

Zelensky is endeavouring to keep his country’s long and largely stalemated defence against Russia on the minds of political leaders, just as Israel’s war with Hamas, which passed the 100-day mark this week, has siphoned off much of the world’s attention and sparked concerns about a wider conflict in the Middle East.

“It is important that you stand with us, I thank you for your support. It is very important to be here, to boost investment in Ukraine and support our economy,” Zelensky said at an invitation-only “CEOs for Ukraine” session, according to his office.

It is Zelensky’s first trip to Davos as president after speaking by video in previous years, and – while surrounded by a large security contingent – he’s drawing the attention of media and others trying to grab a word from him.

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Conversations with the prime ministers of Qatar and Jordan will bookend the day’s most visible events, with speeches by Chinese Premier Li Qiang, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and US national security adviser Jake Sullivan in between.

Von der Leyen on Tuesday said Ukraine’s allies need to guarantee stable backing for Kyiv as questions swirl over future support from the United States and EU.

“Ukrainians need predictable financing throughout 2024 and beyond. They need a sufficient and sustained supply of weapons to defend Ukraine and regain its rightful territory,” von der Leyen told the forum in Davos.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at a session with “CEOs for Ukraine” during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos on Tuesday. Photo: Pool/AFP

Secretary of State Antony Blinken promised sustained US support for Ukraine in a meeting on Tuesday with Zelensky, despite a row in the US Congress on approving new funding.

Particular emphasis was made on air defence and long-range capabilities, Zelensky said in a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter.

He informed Blinken and US national security adviser Jake Sullivan of the battlefield situation, plans for 2024, and the means needed to fulfil them.

Kyiv is increasing efforts to ramp up domestic military production to ensure stable supplies and become less dependent on foreign partners, which face their own shortages and cannot meet Ukraine’s battlefield needs.

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“We … emphasised that greater defence cooperation and co-production will increase Ukraine’s self-reliance while decreasing its reliance on foreign military and financial aid,” Zelensky said.

“We are determined to sustain our support for Ukraine, and we’re working very closely with Congress in order to work to do that. I know our European colleagues will do the same thing,” Blinken told Zelensky in Switzerland.

Zelensky told the Davos summit that Russian President Vladimir Putin would pursue his invasion of Ukraine even if fighting pauses on the sprawling front.

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Ukraine says Russian strike killed over 50 in one of the deadliest attacks of the war

Ukraine says Russian strike killed over 50 in one of the deadliest attacks of the war

“After 2014, there were attempts to freeze the war in Donbas. There were very influential guarantors, the chancellor of Germany, the president of France. But Putin is a predator who is not satisfied with frozen products,” Zelensky said.

The Ukrainian president also said on Tuesday the West needed to help Ukraine gain air superiority over Russia to give his forces a chance of victory on the battlefield.

“We must gain air superiority for Ukraine. Just as we gained superiority in the Black Sea, we can do it. This will allow progress on the ground … Partners know what is needed and in what quantity,” he said.

Qatar’s prime minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, said concentrating on attacks on ships in the Red Sea by Yemen’s Houthi rebels – which have spurred retaliatory strikes by the US and Britain – was “focusing on the symptoms and not treating the real issue” of Israel’s war on Hamas.

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“We should focus on the main conflict in Gaza. And as soon as it’s defused, I believe everything else will be defused,” he said, adding that a two-state solution was required to end the conflict.

Sheikh Mohammed also warned a military confrontation “will not contain” the Houthi attacks.

“I think that what we have right now in the region is a recipe of escalation everywhere,” he added.

Zelensky, once reticent about leaving his war-torn country, has recently gone on a whirlwind tour to try to rally support for Ukraine’s cause against Russia amid donor fatigue in the West and concerns that former US President Donald Trump – who touted having good relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin – might return to the White House next year following his commanding win in the Iowa caucuses.

On Monday, Zelensky made a stop in Switzerland’s capital, Bern, where President Viola Amherd pledged her country would start working with Ukraine to help organise a “peace summit” for Ukraine.

This is Zelensky’s first trip to Davos as president, after speaking by video in previous years.

Reporting by Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, Reuters

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