Zelenskiy calls for maximum sanctions against Russia in Davos address

Ukrainian president tells global leaders such measures should include embargo on oil

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy called on Monday for “maximum” sanctions against Russia in a virtual address to global political and business leaders on the opening day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland.

Mr Zelenskiy used the event to reiterate that there should be a complete international embargo on Russian oil, all of the country’s banks, and its technology sector.

“This is what the sanctions should be: they should be maximum, so that any other potential aggressor who wants to use brute force against its neighbour clearly knows the immediate consequences of their action,” Mr Zelenskiy said in the address beamed from Kyiv to about 1,000 delegates gathered in the main conference hall at the WEF in the Swiss Alpine town.

While western allies have unleashed several rounds of sanctions against Russian entities since its invasion of Ukraine three months ago, including much of its banking sector, efforts to impose an EU-wide phasing out of Russian oil imports are currently being resisted by Hungary.

“If brute force dominates, then there is no need to gather in Davos,” Mr Zelenskiy told the forum, being held for the first time in May after the usual January gathering was cancelled in the past two years because of the Covid-19 pandemic. “Brute force does not discuss. It kills.”

Centres of conflict

The Ukrainian president noted that with no Russian officials or entities invited to Davos this year, the usual fixture that is the Russia House on the town’s main promenade has been replaced by the so-called Russian War Crimes House. It includes a map showing the centres of conflict that has resulted in the deaths of almost 4,200 civilians, as well as a video depicting evidence of war crimes. Russia has denied allegations of war crimes.

The Ukraine war, which has resulted in more than six million people fleeing the country and a further eight million being displaced, according to UN figures issued on Monday, is at the top of the agenda for the four-day conference.

Around a dozen senior Ukrainian officials, including the mayor of Kyiv, former boxer Vitali Klitschko, are attending the event in person to try to further galvanise international support for the country.

The WEF also takes place at a time of mounting concerns about the global economy as central banks seek to rein in monetary stimulus and embark on a cycle of interest rate hikes to combat a spike in consumer prices. The Ukraine war has exacerbated a global spike in inflation, which had started last year as economies reopened following the worst of the pandemic.


Hundreds of international companies have decided to cease or pull back operations in protest against the Kremlin’s offensive in Ukraine.

Asked by the WEF’s founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab if he had a message to individual political and business leaders at the forum, Mr Zelenskiy said that international unity against Russia “creates a punch that the management of the Russian Federation feels the most”.

“I do understand that each of you has your own range of priorities and issues, each of you has a country to look after and think about,” he said. “But we are fighting not to lose in Ukraine. I wish that every one of you wakes up in the morning with this feeling in the head, like, ‘What have I done for Ukraine today?’”