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Zelenski calls on international companies to leave Russia so as not to be "complicit in war crimes"

In his opening address to the Davos Forum, the Ukrainian president offered "a market of more than 40 million people" and a project to rebuild an entire country after the war
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AFP/FABRICE COFFRINI  -   Ukraine's President Volodymir Zelenski addresses the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, 23 May 2022

The small Swiss town of Davos has once again - after a two-year hiatus - become the venue for the World Economic Forum. The annual summit, also known as the Davos Forum, brings together more than 1,250 leaders and entrepreneurs from the private sector and around 50 heads of government, as well as national delegations, analysts and experts from the international economy, who aim to address and respond to the most critical issues of each year. 

This year's meeting, which will be held from 23-26 May and will be marked, as expected, by developments in the war in Ukraine, was opened with a speech by Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenski via videoconference

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AFP/FABRICE COFFRINI - File photo. Davos Forum

"History is at a turning point," he said. "This is really the moment to decide whether brute force will rule the world. Zelensky therefore did not hesitate to call on the audience, once again, for the imposition of "convincing sanctions" that would weaken Russia and put an end to its offensive. Maximum sanctions on oil, blocking all banks without exception, cutting off its access to technology and the full withdrawal of all foreign companies from the Russian market so as not to be complicit in war crimes", said the Ukrainian leader. 

"If the aggressor loses everything, then he will be left without his motivation to start a war," he stressed.

In return, Zelensky has offered representatives of major international companies "to continue operating in Ukraine, a market of more than 40 million people" where they would be part of the post-war reconstruction of entire cities. And while the Ukrainian leader has acknowledged and thanked for the aid received so far, he stressed that his country needs funding. "At least $5 billion a month," he said. 

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AFP/FABRICE COFFRINI - Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenski addresses the World Economic Forum on Monday from a giant screen

"They should have acted earlier with Russia. If there had been preventive action we would have saved many lives", was one of the Ukrainian's main reproaches during his speech. 

One of the proposals on the table for financing Ukrainian reconstruction is the use of frozen assets of leaders and oligarchs close to the Kremlin. "Confiscated or frozen Russian assets should be put into a special fund to help all those affected by the war," Zelenski proposed. 

Meanwhile, at a Davos Forum meeting with no Russian delegations or companies invited, Borge Brende, president of the economic organisation, proposed the adoption of a 'Marshall Plan' for Ukraine's recovery. "Even without a peace agreement, which is unlikely at this stage, we must start working on reconstruction, at least in the territories under Ukraine's control. We need a Marshall Plan for Ukraine," Brende said in an interview with the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung. 

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PHOTO/ WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM (WEF) - WEF Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab, speaking at an all-virtual World Economic Forum, usually held in Davos, Switzerland
Ukrainian wheat 

One of the most important issues resulting from the war has been the drastic decline in Ukrainian wheat exports to other countries. These supplies are vital for much of the international community. "The Russians have blocked our ports, they are stealing our grain day after day," Zelenski responded to a question from German Klaus Schwab, founder of the Davos Forum.

"The priority is to enable our blocked ports in the Black Sea to function (...) We have to agree on the creation of a corridor, so that Russia cannot oppose it," he urged, taking the opportunity to mention talks with several world leaders, especially from the Baltic states, in this regard. 

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PHOTO/AP - The "House of Russian Crimes" in the Swiss city of Davos, where an exhibition on Russia's war crimes during the invasion of Ukraine is currently being held
Russia's House of Crimes

And while Davos hosts the World Economic Forum, the war in Ukraine has been raging for almost three months and the death toll continues to rise. The situation of trapped Ukrainians in Mariupol threatens epidemics due to unhealthy conditions, and in Kharkov, 150 bodies have been recovered by the State Emergency Service during debris clearance. 

So at the same time as Zelenski was speaking to the Davos Forum, Ukraine's Ombudswoman Lyudmila Denisova was opening the "Russia's House of Crimes", also in Davos. An exhibition of maps, photos, videos and testimonies of civilian victims of Russian attacks, symbolically located in what was, for many years, "Russia's House". 

"Our intention is to convey the truth about the crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine, because in many countries they receive information through the news or social networks, but we are here and we want to expose the truth from the inside, from our first-hand experience," Denisova told the EFE news agency.