DAVOS: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged his Western allies on Wednesday to take quicker decisions to help his war-struck country, warning that “tyranny is outpacing democracies”.

In an address to the World Economic Forum in Davos by videolink, the Ukrainian leader issued a “call for speed” in a barely veiled reference to hesitation in Germany about whether to supply heavy Leopard tanks to the country.

“The time the Free World uses to think is used by the terrorist state to kill,” Zelensky said ahead of a meeting of Ukraine’s Western arms suppliers in Germany on Friday (tomorrow).

“The world must not hesitate today or ever,” he added. “The mobilisation of the world must outpace the next military mobilisation of our joint enemy.”

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz promised support for Ukraine for “as long as necessary”, but without mentioning tanks, in his speech at the Davos forum earlier in the day.

European allies have implored the German chancellor to agree to the export of Leopard heavy tanks to help Ukraine repel Russia’s invasion.

Leaders and ministers from Finland, Lithuania, Poland and Britain have added their voices in recent days to a growing clamour for Berlin to approve the export of German-made Leopards to Ukraine.

Polish President Andrzej Duda, whose country has offered to send its Leopards, called it a “very, very, very good idea” on Tuesday.

“I hope it will be very positive for Ukraine. Unofficially, I have very good and positive signals,” Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Wednesday about the Friday meeting.

Scholz speech disappoints allies

With the pressure rising, some had expected an announcement during Scholz’s speech at the World Economic Forum, a day after several EU leaders pushed for a decision at the same event.

But Scholz made no reference to tanks, simply insisting that Germany was “continuously supplying Ukraine with large quantities of arms, in close consultation with our partners”.

After the speech, Scholz was asked directly about Germany’s continued hesitancy on the issue.

But while listing weapons from Iris-T air defence systems to multiple rocket launchers to Marder armoured vehicles, he pointedly failed to mention the sought-after Leopards.

Instead, he repeated that “we are not just supporting Ukraine with humanitarian aid but also with a lot of weapons”.

“We are never doing something just by ourselves, but together with others, especially the United States,” he added.

Germany has been repeatedly criticised for its reluctance to send weapons to Ukraine since the start of the conflict.

The issue will be one of the most pressing in the in-tray of newly appointed Defence Minister Boris Pistorius, who took the post on Tuesday.

Letter to Xi

The Ukrainian president has written a letter to Chinese leader Xi Jinping inviting him to talks. The letter was handed over in Davos to the Chinese delegation, his wife Olena Zelenska said.

Zelensky has repeatedly sought to make contact with Xi since Russia’s invasion in the hope that Beijing would use its influence over Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

During a speech on Tuesday at the World Economic Forum, Zelenska said she had a letter for Xi, but she gave new details during a press conference on Wednesday.

“It was a gesture and invitation to dialogue and I hope very much that there will be a response to this invitation,” she told reporters.

Published in Dawn, January 19th, 2023

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