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Zelensky urges ‘maximum’ sanctions, oil and trade embargo on Russia in Davos talk

Russia not invited to World Economic Forum in Switzerland, where Ukrainian president, in virtual address, asks for $15 billion a month to fight invaders

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky displayed on a screen as he addresses the audience from Kyiv on a screen during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, May 23, 2022. (Markus Schreiber/AP)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky displayed on a screen as he addresses the audience from Kyiv on a screen during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, May 23, 2022. (Markus Schreiber/AP)

DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for “maximum” sanctions against Russia during a virtual speech on the first day of the World Economic Forum gathering of corporate executives, government officials and other VIPs in Davos, Switzerland.

He said sanctions need to go further to stop Russia’s aggression, including an oil embargo, blocking all of its banks and cutting off trade with Russia completely.

“This is what sanctions should be: They should be maximum, so that Russia and every other potential aggressor that wants to wage a brutal war against its neighbor would clearly know the immediate consequences of their actions,” Zelenskyy said.

He said that should be a precedent that will work for decades to come. He also pushed for the complete withdrawal of foreign companies from Russia to prevent supporting its war and said Ukraine needs funding — at least $5 billion per month.

The Group of Seven leading economies agreed Friday to provide $19.8 billion in economic aid to Ukraine to help keep tight finances from hindering its ability to defend itself.

Zelensky said his people’s courage has stirred unseen unity of the democratic world.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks on a screen inside a so-called Russian War Crimes House alongside the World Economy Forum in Davos, Switzerland, May 22, 2022. (Markus Schreiber/AP)

His speech was a key focus at Davos, the village in the Swiss Alps that has been transformed into a glitzy venue for the four-day confab ostensibly dedicated to making the world a better place. The event is resuming in person after a two-year hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which also delayed this year’s meeting from its usual winter slot because of uncertainty over the Omicron variant.

For the attendees, there’s much to tackle amid soaring food and fuel prices, Russia’s war in Ukraine, climate change, inequality and persistent health crises. But it’s hard to predict if the high-minded discussions will yield substantial announcements that make headway on the world’s most pressing challenges.

“This war is really a turning point of history and it will reshape our political and our economic landscape in the coming years,” the event’s founder, Klaus Schwab, said.

The elite attendees have filled the conference venue, to both schmooze and listen to panel discussions on topics like the Russia-Ukraine war, climate change and the global economic outlook. Attendees also are visiting nearby pavilions on Davos’ main drag set up by companies like Intel, Accenture and Facebook owner Meta.

There’s also a sizable Ukrainian government delegation attending in person, making their case for more Western support in the country’s fight against Russia.

The logo of the World Economic Forum is seen on a window in front of Davos platz village, at the 51st annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, WEF, in Davos, Switzerland, on May 22, 2022. (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP)

Russian officials have not been invited to Davos this year, with what was dubbed the “Russia House” having been transformed by critics — including Ukrainian tycoon Victor Pinchuk and the country’s Foreign Ministry — into what they call the “Russia War Crimes House.”

The venue features photos of crimes and cruelties that Russian forces are accused of perpetuating. Some victims will speak out — including Anatoliy Fedoruk, the mayor of Bucha, a town near Kyiv where killings of civilians drew outrage.

While Ukraine will capture attention on the meeting’s first day, climate and environmental issues will be a constant theme as the forum looks to future challenges as much as the current ones.

One-third of the roughly 270 panel discussions through Thursday’s finale will focus on climate change or its effects, with extreme weather, efforts to reach “net zero” emissions and finding new, cleaner sources of energy on the agenda.

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