Ukraine’s Zelensky Compares His Country to Israel at Davos

Davos
FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky compared his country to Israel in conversation with World Economic Forum (WEF) boss Klaus Schwab during a video appearance at the Davos summit in Switzerland.

Addressing a crowd of a thousand business and political leaders, according to Schwab, the Ukrainian leader told the Davos organiser that, whatever happens in the present conflict, “with a neighbour like this” — namely Russia — “anything can happen anytime, and the war may repeat itself.”

Zelensky said that, over the longer term, the Ukrainian government would have to “create such conditions that people and businesses would not be afraid to exist in this country, to thrive in this country,” asking listeners to consider the “example of Israel”, which finds itself in a similarly hostile environment — but has managed to establish itself as a relatively prosperous economy with a thriving tech industry despite existing in a near-constant state of low-level conflict, or worse.

“Ukraine is a bit bigger than [Israel] and the task of defending our land is more complex,” suggested the Ukrainian leader, who is Jewish, adding that his task was to “create the most up to date defence system; to create the most modern multimodal defence and security system; to enter into preparation for cooperative defence agreements with the countries we respect and we have trust in… to see that any chance for the aggressor to try and enter our country in the future would be short-lived.”

Zelensky also called for increased sanctions on Russia, insisting that “sanctions should… 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,” and suggested that “tens of thousands of lives” might have been saved if weapons supplies and sanctions as stringent as the ones currently in place had been agreed immediately, rather than piecemeal.

Members of Zelensky’s government have previously alleged that the Germans, in particular, told their ambassador, Andrij Melnyk, that their was no point in discussing whether Russia should be ejected from the SWIFT international payments system in the immediate aftermath of Russia’s invasion because Ukraine only had a “few hours” before it was conquered.

Melnyk described the exchange as “the worst conversation in my life.”

At Davos, Zelensky emphasised the damage the war had done to the Ukrainian economy, stressing that the task of rebuilding would be “enormous” as he pressured companies still doing business with Russia to cease their activities there.

“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,” he admonished.

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