Ukraine leader wants new security guarantees to fix 'almost broken' global system

3 minute read

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks during the annual Munich Security Conference, in Munich, Germany February 19, 2022. REUTERS/Andreas Gebert

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Feb 19 (Reuters) - As Ukraine braces for a possible attack from Russia, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Saturday he wanted to convene a meeting of world powers to secure new security guarantees for his country as the current global system is no longer fit for purpose.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, Zelenskiy also called on NATO members to be honest about whether they wanted Ukraine to join the alliance or not.

The 44-year-old leader received a standing ovation before starting remarks in which he called on the world to learn the "terrible lessons from history" and chided the international community for what he said was the appeasing of Russia.

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"The rules that the world agreed on decades ago no longer work. They do not keep up with new threats. Not effective for overcoming them. This is a cough syrup when you need a coronavirus vaccine," he said.

"The security system is slow. It crashes again. Because of selfishness, self-confidence, irresponsibility of states at the global level," he said.

Calling the global security architecture "almost broken", Zelenskiy said he wanted to convene a meeting of the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, which includes Russia, and Germany and Turkey to provide new guarantees for Ukraine.

Zelenskiy said if the West was so sure that Russia was about to attack, it should impose sanctions on Moscow, rather than threatening to impose them in the event of an attack, because they were of no use once bombs starting raining down on Ukraine.

'ATTEMPTS AT APPEASEMENT'

"What do attempts at appeasement lead to?" Zelenskiy said, going on to refer to a speech by Russian President Vladimir Putin at the same conference in 2007.

"Fifteen years ago, it was here that Russia announced its intention to challenge global security. What did the world say? Reconciliation. Result? At least - the annexation of Crimea and aggression against my state," he said.

The United States has warned that Russia could be poised to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine after massing tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine's borders in recent weeks. Ukraine has tended to play down the threat of a huge offensive but said it was ready for any possibility.

Russia has denied planning any sort of attack but has demanded its own security guarantees from NATO and the United States, which include a permanent bar on Ukraine joining NATO.

Zelenskiy said countries should be transparent about whether they wanted Ukraine, a country of 41 million on the European Union's eastern borders, to join the EU and NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

"If not all members of the alliance want to see us or all members of the alliance do not want to see us, be honest," he said. "Open doors are good, but we need open answers, not closed questions for years."

Zelenskiy spoke earnestly in his speech and during the question and answer session afterwards. But the president, a former comedian and actor, at one point quipped that Russia had launched a hacking attack when his headphones stopped working.

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Reporting by Natalia Zinets, Matthias Williams and Pavel Polityuk in Kyiv Editing by Frances Kerry

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