Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has told the World Economic Forum that Western supplies of tanks and air-defense systems should come more quickly in order to outpace Russian attacks.
Zelenskiy, who spoke to the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, on January 18, pleading for stepped-up deliveries of weapons, said later in his nightly video address that the Donbas was currently the “epicenter” of the war.
Ukraine is recording a gradual increase in shelling and attempted offensive actions by the Russian forces there, he said, thanking “all our fighters who are holding positions.”
Zelenskiy also thanked Canada, which announced a defense package for Ukraine, saying the aid was “very timely and important.”
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Zelenskiy spoke virtually to the World Economic Forum — an elite gathering of world leaders and corporate executives — calling on the world to speed up deliveries of weapons.
“The time the free world uses to think is used by the terrorist state to kill,” Zelenskiy said. “The supplies of Western tanks must outpace another invasion of Russian tanks.”
Ukraine remains motivated to continue battling the Russian invasion, now in its 11th month, he said, but added that its allies have repeatedly been too “hesitant” to act to confront Russia, even if they eventually make the right call.
Zelenskiy did not specifically mention Germany, but Ukraine has repeatedly called on Berlin to send German-manufactured Leopard 2 tanks.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke earlier to the forum, telling the audience that Berlin will support Ukraine “for as long as necessary.” But Scholz, despite criticism not just from Kyiv but also from NATO allies and members of his own coalition, has so far held out against sending Leopard 2 tanks.
Germany has reportedly linked its decision on whether to send Leopard 2 tanks to the United States sending advanced Abrams tanks.
U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl told journalists at the Pentagon on January 18 that the United States was not currently prepared to provide the tanks.
“I just don’t think we’re there yet,” Kahl said, though he did not rule out doing so in the future.
“The Abrams tank is a very complicated piece of equipment. It’s expensive, it’s hard to train on, it has a jet engine…. It is not the easiest system to maintain,” Kahl said.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, speaking earlier to the Davos forum, said Germany will support Ukraine “for as long as necessary.” But Scholz, despite criticism not just from Kyiv but also from NATO allies and members of his own coalition, has so far held out against sending Leopard 2 tanks.
“We are continuously supplying Ukraine with large quantities of arms, in close consultation with our partners,” including artillery, air-defense systems, and armored vehicles, Scholz said.
He described the decision to send those weapons as “a profound turning point in German foreign and security policy.”
Zelenskiy added that he was pleased to hear that former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has altered his view on Ukrainian membership of NATO. Kissinger, who spoke virtually to the World Economic Forum on January 17, said Russia’s invasion shows there is no longer a point to keeping Ukraine out of NATO and membership for Ukraine would be an “appropriate outcome.”
Kissinger’s revised opinion is “very important to put political pressure on Russia” to stop its aggression, Zelenskiy said, adding that Kyiv still believes that NATO membership is the best guarantee for its security.
Asked whether he has concerns for his own safety in light of a helicopter crash on January 18 near Kyiv that took the lives of Ukraine’s interior minister and other government officials, Zelenskiy said he was not worried.
He asked the audience to observe a moment of silence for the 14 people killed, including Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskiy and other senior ministry officials, as well as one child. His wife, first lady Olena Zelenska, was among those in the audience. She is in Davos to urge political and business leaders to wield their “influence” in support of Ukraine.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, who is part of a large Ukrainian delegation to the World Economic Forum, said he had “very good and positive signals” that new weapons would be announced for Ukraine at a meeting of the country’s Western allies in Germany on January 20.
Klitschko is at the World Economic Forum as part of a large Ukrainian delegation that is lobbying for more financial aid and weapons.
“Let’s pay attention in two days,” Klitschko told the AFP news agency, referring to a meeting of Ukraine’s backers scheduled to be held at the Ramstein military base in Germany.
“I hope it will be very positive for Ukraine. Unofficially, I have very good and positive signals.”
Earlier on January 18, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres delivered a gloomy message to the economic forum, saying the world is in a “sorry state” because of myriad “interlinked” challenges including climate change and Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Guterres said the challenges are “piling up like cars in a chain reaction crash,” speaking on the second day of the forum.