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Zelensky in Munich demands security guarantees, calls for preemptive sanctions against Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) and the Chairman of the Munich Security Conference Wolfgang Ischinger (R) speak during the 58th Munich Security Conference (MSC) on Feb. 19, 2022 in Munich, Germany. (Getty Images)

President Volodymyr Zelensky called upon the West to stand by Ukraine as Russia threatens to further invade it, in an emotional address to the Munich Security Conference on Feb. 19. 

He criticized the ambivalent attitude of countries who stay silent, saying those who don’t stand by Ukraine should “think about karma.”

“I’m not calling my friends out by name, I don’t want other countries to be ashamed,” Zelensky said.

“This is not about the war in Ukraine, this is about a war in Europe,” he added.

“Ukraine made its choice in 2014, and many people have sacrificed their lives for it,” Zelensky said, referring to the EuroMaidan Revolution and the war in eastern Ukraine. “Since 2014, Russia has been insisting that we chose wrong, that no one is waiting for us in Europe. Shouldn’t Europe be constantly saying, and demonstrating by its actions, that it’s not true?”

He also asked to renew the security architecture in Europe, and demanded new security guarantees for Ukraine.

“The security architecture is destroyed, it’s high time for a new one,” Zelensky said. “We have the rights to demand to move from the appeasement policy to security guarantees.”

Zelensky said he wants new security guarantees from Budapest memorandum signatories. He said that if Ukraine didn’t receive renewed, actual security guarantees from the signatories – the U.S., the U.K. and Russia – all provisions of the 1994 agreement will be void. Within the agreement, Ukraine gave up its nuclear arsenal in return for security guarantees, but Russia still invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea in 2014.

Zelensky also suggested convening a summit of permanent members of the United Nations Security Council in the coming weeks, with the participation of Ukraine, Germany and Turkey.

He added Ukraine would defend itself, whether it receives help from its partners or not. 

“We’re going to protect our country with or without the help of our partners,” he said.

He also asked for a meeting with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

“I don’t know what Russia’s president wants, that’s why I want to meet (him),” he said.

Zelensky asked the West not to delay sanctions against Russia until after the invasion, but to implement them preemptively, especially if Russia doesn’t pull back its 150,000 troops encircling Ukraine.

“We don’t need your sanctions after bombardments, after we lose our economy, after we lose our borders,” he said. 

Zelensky also called on the EU and NATO for an honest answer about Ukraine’s potential membership.

“Open doors are good, but we need open answers,” he said, referencing NATO’s “open door policy.”

Zelensky addressed the ongoing escalation in the Russia-controlled parts of eastern Ukraine that started on Feb. 17.

Russian-backed militants have been shelling Ukrainian villages and positions of the Ukrainian forces near the front line in eastern Ukraine. Two Ukrainian soldiers were killed on Feb. 19.

Kremlin-backed proxies also ordered the general mobilization of men 18-55 years old in Russian-occupied territories on Feb. 19, and encouraged civilians to evacuate to Russia.

The Russian state media have been claiming, without evidence, that the Ukrainian forces were shelling the occupied territories, not vice versa. They reported that a gas pipeline was set on fire in Luhansk Oblast, blaming Ukraine for it.

Russian state media also claimed that two freshly exploded shells were found in Russia’s region of Rostov close to the border with Ukraine, implying that Russia suffered a shelling from Ukraine. 

Finally, the Russia-backed militants said they discovered an explosive device under a bridge in Luhansk Oblast, blaming Ukraine’s authorities for planning to blow up the bridge with people on it.

All such accusations are “lies and provocations,” Zelensky said in Munich. Visibly upset, he said that the militants are shelling the territories they control to frame the Ukrainian forces for it.

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