Jan 17, 2023 - World

Ukraine first lady urges leaders to use "influence," unity needed for peace

Olena Zelenska, Ukraine's first lady, delivers a special address on the opening day of the World Economic Forum

Olena Zelenska delivers a special address on the opening day of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 17. Photo: Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska urged global political and business leaders at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland on Tuesday to use their influence to help Ukraine.

Why it matters: As the one year anniversary of Russia's invasion approaches next month, Zelenska warned that the present crisis would keep expanding "if the aggressor does not lose," CNN reported.

  • “We are facing the collapse of the world as we know it, the way we are accustomed to it or to what we aspire," she told the audience, according to excerpts posted by the World Economic Forum.

The big picture: Zelenska spoke of the interconnectedness of the war in Ukraine with global problems of food insecurity, energy and climate change.

  • “How will they achieve climate neutrality if they have not even stopped the burning of entire cities in Ukraine?” she asked, per WEF.
  • “Russian aggression was never intended to restrict itself to the Ukrainian borders, this work will go further and make the crisis wider if the aggressor does not lose," she added, per CNN.
  • Zelenska urged leaders to come together, saying "unity brings peace back," according to WEF.

What they're saying: “What you all have in common is that you are genuinely influential,” Zelenska said, AP reported.

  • “But there is something that separates you, namely that not all of you use this influence, or sometimes use it in a way that separates you even more.”

State of play: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen addressed the forum after Zelenska and vowed continued support from the European Union.

  • "There will be no let up in our steadfast support to Ukraine. From helping to restore power, heating and water, to preparing for the longterm effort of reconstruction," she said.
  • "We are in it for as long as it takes and stand by our Ukrainian friends," she added.
  • Andriy Yermak, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's chief of staff, also addressed the forum Tuesday, telling the audience that over 9,000 civilians have been killed since the Russian invasion, including 453 children, Reuters reported.
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