In a Monday virtual address before the World Economic Forum in Davos, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky urged Western countries to impose "maximum economic sanctions" against Russia.
"The world is united because of threats, the war, Russian aggression. I don’t want you to lose this unity," Zelensky stated in the keynote address which was met with enthusiastic applause in approval. He called for measures which he said have still yet to be imposed, including a ban on Western companies operating in Russia. His words came simultaneous to a UN official at the WEF stressing that Russia's continued blockade on Ukraine ports amounts to a "declaration of war" by Putin on Ukraine and broader humanity:
Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s ports is a “declaration of war” that threatens to trigger mass migration and a global food crisis, a United Nations official said, adding to the dire warnings on the opening day of the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Zelensky's remarks sought to push Europe and global powers led by the US to implement a full embargo on Russian oil, to bar Russian banks global systems with zero exemptions, for companies to abandon Russia IT sector, and for a ban on all trade with Russia.
Calling for a total withdrawal of foreign companies from Russia, Zelensky said via a translator: "This is what sanctions should be: They should be maximum, so that Russia and every other potential aggressor that wants to wage a brutal war against its neighbor would clearly know the immediate consequences of their actions."
And coming just days after the Group of Seven countries pledged $19.8 billion to keep Ukraine's wartime economy afloat, the Ukrainian president added, "The amount of work is enormous: we have more than half a trillion of dollars in losses, tens of thousands of facilities were destroyed. We need to rebuild entire cities and industries." He further described that earlier full support would have resulted in "tens of thousands of lives saved." He said should have "received 100% of our needs at once, back in February" - including weapons and funding needed to keep up state services.
Reacting to the speech, Bloomberg said WEF efforts are crucial to transforming "Putin's Russia into a world pariah". It wrote this "can be particularly effective if seriously absorbed by the audience of the World Economic Forum, by the Olympus of managers, politicians, economists gathered in the Swiss Alps from all over the world."
On the same day David Beasley, executive director of the United Nations' World Food Programme said during a panel discussion that Russia's failure to reopen Ukraine's ports is in effect a "declaration of war" on the globe's food security. He said this also threatens to unleash an unprecedented migrant crisis:
“You don’t need to worry just about what’s happening to the east of you, you also need to worry about what’s happening to the south of you," he said.
"Every 1% increase in hunger leads to a 2% increase in migration."
But there's some practical realities such as basic safety and security of said ports before international shipping is willing to flock back to Ukraine and now heavily militarized Black Sea harbors.
Bad news for grain exports: ‘Western diplomats say reopening Ukrainian ports is not a practical option for at least six months. A Ukrainian one is blunter: “There is no point in escorting merchant ships if nobody is prepared to shoot back at Russia”…’ https://t.co/BmEWCjBUGU— Shashank Joshi (@shashj) May 19, 2022
Clearly, Vladimir Putin is about to exclusively be blamed by the West for the coming global food crisis, growing inflation and migration surge for years to come. But the Russian government has long pointed to Ukraine's placing mines along its coast, posing the greatest danger to foreign commercial ships and tankers.
As The Economist forecast in a dire gloom and doom frontpage story last week entitled, The coming food catastrophe, "The high cost of staple foods has already raised the number of people who cannot be sure of getting enough to eat by 440m, to 1.6bn. Nearly 250m are on the brink of famine. If, as is likely, the war drags on and supplies from Russia and Ukraine are limited, hundreds of millions more people could fall into poverty. Political unrest will spread, children will be stunted, and people will starve."