By Natalia Zinets and Sabine Siebold
DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) -Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told global business leaders meeting at Davos on Monday that the world faces a turning point and has to ratchet up sanctions against Russia as a warning to other countries considering using brute force.
“History is at a turning point… This is really the moment when it is decided whether brute force will rule the world,” Zelenskiy, sporting his trademark olive green T-shirt, said in an address via video link.
His speech kicked off in earnest the four-day World Economic Forum that gathers some 2,000 business and economic leaders as well as experts, with Ukraine topping the agenda.
“Everyone of you have to understand: We are defending you, personally…We are fighting, actually, for every one of you and everyone has to understand that,” said the mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, another member of the large Ukrainian delegation that travelled to Davos.
In stark contrast to the past, Russian state institutions and private companies which threw some of the most glitzy parties with black caviar, vintage champagne and foie gras, have not been invited to the Alpine resort this year.
The former “Russia House”, Moscow’s base at Davos in past years, has been turned into a “Russian War Crimes House” by Ukrainian artists, exhibiting pictures of misery and devastation caused by the war in Ukraine.
Moscow has denied targeting civilians or involvement in war crimes while it carries out what it calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine and says Western sanctions and arms deliveries for Kyiv amount to a “proxy war” waged against it by the West.
Zelenskiy urged countries to put more pressure on Moscow and accused them of not exhausting sanctions.
“The sanctions should be maximum, so that Russia – and every other potential aggressor who wants to wage a brutal war against its neighbour – clearly knows the immediate consequences of their actions,” he said.
He demanded an oil embargo, the blockage of all Russian banks and termination of all trade. Foreign businesses should withdraw completely from Russia, and the Russian IT industry should be cut off from the West.
The sanctions must set a precedent, deterring any other aggressors in the decades to come, Zelenskiy said, adding Russia had caused its decline by its own actions.
The renaming of the Russia House “is an example of their transformation, what Russia has done to itself, of becoming a state of war criminals and what it brings to the world: It inspires other potential aggressors to act,” he said.
The Ukrainian former world boxing heavyweight champion, Wladimir Klitschko, demanded that sanctions also target Russian athletes.
“Here in Switzerland is the headquarters of the IOC, International Olympic Committee, and I believe that Russian Olympic team must be banned and not participate,” he said.
“Nothing against the nationality or against the athletes, but they represent the regime of Russia, this aggressive regime that has started this senseless war.”
(Reporting by Sabine Siebold, Natalia Zinets and Tara Oakes; Writing by Conor Humphries; editing by John Stonestreet, Tomasz Janowski and Nick Macfie)