Ukraine-Russia Crisis: Live Updates – The New York Times
MUNICH — In an appeal that is sometimes bitterly critical of the West, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday urged his allies to start imposing sanctions on Russia rather than waiting for an invasion, and he took aim repeated US statements that an attack would happen within days.
“What are you waiting for?” Mr Zelensky asked a large audience at the annual meeting of the Munich Security Conference, which he attended despite warnings that his absence from Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, could give Russia the opportunity to hit. “We don’t need your sanctions after ‘the economy collapses and’ parts of our country will be occupied.”
By turns grateful for Allied unity and frustrated by its apparent ineffectiveness, Mr Zelensky called Europe’s security architecture ‘fragile’, even ‘outdated’, as he described his country’s plight since the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014.
He insisted that no deal to avert the crisis should be made with Russia that did not include his country.
“It’s important that all of our partners and friends don’t agree on anything behind our backs,” he said. “We are not panicking. We are very consistent that we do not respond to any provocation.
Mr. Zelensky’s remarks contrasted with the description given earlier in the day by Vice President Kamala Harris of a united and vigorous NATO alliance which had shown its determination at a time when the security of Europe was “directly threatened”.
A key part of the West’s strategy has been to expose Russian plans and make public their intelligence estimates of when Russian forces should cross the Ukrainian border. But Mr Zelensky argued that daily predictions of an impending invasion, most recently from President Biden on Friday, were spooking investors, “crushing” the national currency and terrorizing its population.
“We are not ready to put ourselves in coffins and wait for the arrival of foreign soldiers,” he said. “We cannot say on a daily basis that the war will take place tomorrow.”
Mr Zelensky carefully navigated one of Russian President Vladimir V. Putin’s main complaints: that NATO would not give a “written guarantee” that it would never let Ukraine into the Western alliance. Mr Zelensky made it clear that he would not back down from applying for membership, but blamed the West for delaying Ukraine’s interest in joining.
“We are told the doors are open,” Zelensky said, referring to NATO. “But so far, foreigners are not allowed. If all the members don’t want to see us, or if all the members don’t want to see us there, be honest about it. Open doors are good, but we need open answers.
Ukraine, he added, does not need “years and years of closed questions” from NATO.
Mr. Zelensky has repeatedly said he wants to meet with Mr. Putin, who curtly rejected the possibility and, indeed, the entire Ukrainian government. Mr Putin has made it clear that he considers Ukraine to be part of Russia, or at least that the two countries form a “historical and spiritual space”, as he put it in a 5,000-word dissertation on “the historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians”. » published last summer.
Mr Zelensky sounded bitter as he described the West as failing to live up to commitments it made in 1994, when it offered vague security guarantees in return for Ukraine’s decision to give up a huge arsenal of nuclear weapons. The weapons had been left in silos on Ukrainian territory after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
When Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014, he said, signatories to the 1994 agreement, called the “Budapest Memorandum,” pretended it didn’t exist. “We have lost parts of our territory that are bigger than Switzerland, the Netherlands or Belgium.”
“We will protect our country,” Mr. Zelensky said, “with or without support.”
Calling for calm, he said he enjoyed breakfast in Kyiv and intended to be home in time for dinner.