Zelensky calls for even tougher Russia as allies work to maintain unity

DAVOS, Switzerland — Hoping to promote international settlement, Ukraine’s president on Monday told global political and business leaders that it has punished Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine, but it hasn’t been enough. far.

President Volodymyr Zelensky declared: “This is really the decisive moment whether violence will rule the world or not.

The Ukrainian leader was speaking via video link to the World Economic Forum in Davos on a day when a Russian diplomat resigned with one-sided statements denouncing President Vladimir V. Putin, and when a soldier Russia became the first person to be convicted by a Ukrainian court of a war crime.

Earlier, in a sign of the broader impact of the war, President Biden had indirectly warned Ukraine and its most fervent allies that not taking a stand against Russia would encourage future territorial aggression, including China. At a press conference in Japan, Mr. Biden frankly stated that he would use military force to defend Taiwan from China, and went far beyond what he had to do to aid Ukraine, dropping America’s long-ambiguous stance on such a conflict.

When asked how the US response might be different in the event of an attack on Taiwan, Mr Biden opened his response by saying that Mr Putin must “pay a heavy price for his barbarism in Ukraine.”

NATO countries and the European Union have so far shown remarkable consensus in imposing tough economic sanctions on Russia and supporting Ukraine, but some rifts have emerged. Hungary has introduced an EU embargo on Russian oil imports, although Robert Habeck, Germany’s deputy chancellor and energy minister, say second that he was “positive that Europe will find a solution in the coming days.”

And while some European nations, including Poland, insist that any peace deal must include Russia’s complete withdrawal from Ukraine, others have pressed for a less ambitious ceasefire. rather, leaving the question of whether the West can accept some of Russia’s territories. profit. The Italian government has issued a ceasefire proposal, which the Russian government said on Monday that it has received and is considering.

But it’s not clear where the warriors stand in a deal. Russia remained ambivalent, taking turns huddled and pushed for negotiations, sometimes lasting for several hours.

Earlier in the war, the Ukrainian government said it would accept neutrality, renounce its intention to join the NATO alliance – Russia’s main need and feature of Italy’s proposal – and was ready to discuss possible options. territorial agreement under certain conditions. It remains to be seen whether Russia’s battlefield struggles and evidence of atrocities will change minds in Kyiv.

Mr Zelensky’s appearance in the video at Davos – beard, t-shirt and fierce expression – underscored a contrast to previous versions of an event that has come to stand for self-respect. self. Russian officials and oligarchs, who often organize lavish parties, banned this year; in their place is an exhibition about atrocities in Ukraine.

Mr. Zelensky said that sanctions should be pushed to the maximum, “so that Russia and every other potential aggressor who wants to wage a brutal war against a neighboring country knows exactly what this is leading to.” what”.

He said that while the United States, the European Union and other countries have cut off or cut off energy imports from Russia and other commercial activities, while also blocking Russian banks from important international networks, Importantly, these measures have not gone far enough.

“Don’t wait until Russia uses special weapons – chemical, biological and nuclear,” Zelensky said. “Don’t give the aggressor the impression that the world won’t show enough resistance.”

Many foreign businesses have suspended operations in Russia, but few say they will definitely leave the country; Starbucks joined that shorter list on Monday. Mr. Zelensky said that companies should close completely in Russia “so your brands don’t get caught up in war crimes,” and invited them to move to Ukraine.

In Ukraine, fighting has broken out around the city of Sievierodonetsk, a key target of Russia’s offensive to expand the vast extent of territory it already holds in the east of the country. Heavy artillery provided by the US, 155 mm caliber cannon, with begin to approach Ukrainian frontline unitsreduce Russia’s advantage in heavy weapons.

On Monday, a court in Kyiv found a Russian soldier the crime of killing civilians, and sentenced him to life in prison – the first such sentence for a Russian taken prisoner. Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin, 21, has admitted to shooting a 62-year-old man while he was riding a bicycle in the Sumy region, in the early days of the war. Ukrainian officials say they have documented more than 1,000 war crimes and identified hundreds of perpetrators, most of which are out of reach.

Mr. Zelensky said that an attack last week on a military training center in northern Ukraine killed 87 peoplefar more than initially estimated, making it one of the deadliest attacks since the 24 February invasion began.

Russia’s progress is still slow and the damage is heavy. Britain’s Defense Intelligence Agency reported on Monday that the Russian military “has likely suffered a similar number of deaths” in just three months of fighting in Ukraine with Soviet losses – estimated at over 14,000 people died – in the war in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989.

Ukrainian officials say that tens of thousands of their own people, mostly civilians, have been killed. The United Nations refugee agency said on Monday that the war had forced 14 million Ukrainians – out of a population of about 44 million before the war – from their homes, of which 6 million had already fled. country, in the largest exodus in Europe since the Second World War. The war has pushed the number of displaced people worldwide to more than 100 million for the first time, the agency said.

Such information does not reach most people in Russia, where independent sources of information have been forced to shut down, critics are jailed or sent to prison, officials and the media. Kremlin-controlled media completely misrepresent what is happening in Ukraine, and the government has made it a crime to criticize the war or even call it a war or an invasion.

Several prominent Russians have spoken out, mainly from the outside, but officials have taken notice of the Kremlin’s line.

On Monday, however, a mid-level diplomat in Russia’s mission to the United Nations in Geneva resigned with a scathing public statement calling his country “bloody, senseless stupidity. meaningful and completely unnecessary”, while accusing leaders of being only concerned with their power and luxuries. .

Diplomat Boris Bondarev wrote: “The aggressive war waged by Putin against Ukraine is a ‘crime against the Ukrainian people’ and against the Russians as well. He said the State Department, where he worked for 20 years, “is all about resentment, lies and hatred.”

In an interview, he said that in the series, “there are people – not too few – who think like me. But most, I think, are still in the grip of this propaganda that they receive and partly generate. He said that diplomats sent false reports back to Moscow, telling their superiors only what they wanted to hear.

Part of the result, he said, is that the Kremlin “wrong Ukraine, they got the West wrong, they got everything wrong basically.”

Matina Stevis-Gridneff report from Davos, Anton Troianovski from Istanbul and Richard Pérez-Peña from New York. Report contributed by Mark Landler from Davos; Zolan Kanno-Youngs from Tokyo; Peter Baker from Seoul; Andrew E. Kramer from Pokrovsk, Ukraine; Valerie Hopkins from Kyiv; Nick Cumming-Bruce from Geneva; and Matthew Mpoke Bigg from Krakow, Poland.

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