Ukraine’s Zelenskiy says others may be emboldened if Russia not punished

Ukraine's President Zelenskiy addresses the Ukrainian people in Kyiv
FILE PHOTO: Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy addresses the Ukrainian people, as Russia?s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine March 29, 2022. Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

March 31, 2022

SYDNEY (Reuters) -Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told Australia’s parliament on Thursday that Russia must be held accountable for past wrongs, warning that a failure to punish Moscow may encourage other countries to wage war against their neighbours.

Zelenskiy called for new and tougher sanctions to retaliate against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and suggested that years of failure to rein in the global power had emboldened Moscow.

“If we don’t stop Russia now, if we don’t hold Russia accountable, then some other countries of the world who are looking forward to a similar war against their neighbours will decide that such things are possible for them as well,” Zelenskiy said in the video address, according to an official translation.

Zelenskiy, seated at a desk wearing his trademark khaki t-shirt, did not specify which countries he feared would be inspired by Russia.

Australia and its Western allies have raised concerns about increasingly aggressive language by China regarding Taiwan, whose independence it disputes.

“The fate of the global security is decided now,” Zelenskiy said. “No one can manage to win … no one can save any part of the world from radioactive (destruction) that were to come if nuclear weapons are used,” he said.

Western countries say Moscow’s invasion, the biggest assault on a European country since World War Two, was entirely unprovoked. Russia says it is carrying out a “special operation” to disarm and “denazify” its neighbour.

Australia has supplied defence equipment and humanitarian supplies to Ukraine, while banning exports of alumina and aluminum ores, including bauxite, to Russia.

It has sanctioned 443 individuals, including businessmen close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and 33 entities, including most of Russia’s banking sector and all entities responsible for the country’s sovereign debt.

On Thursday, Australia said it was imposing an additional 35% tariff on imports from Russia and Belarus, which it said supported the invasion, and that it was increasing its military assistance to Ukraine by A$25 million to A$116 million ($86.70 million).

Zelenskiy invoked the worst clash between Australia and Russia in recent years, the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over rebel-held eastern Ukraine in 2014 by what investigators say was a Russian-made surface-to-air missile, killing all 298 on board including 38 Australians.

“Has Russia paid compensation to the dead and families? No, they are still denying the fault of this tragedy,” he said.

He also brought up the Russian invasion of Crimea that same year. “If the world had punished Russia in 2014 for what it did, there would not be any of this terror invasion of Ukraine in 2022. We have to correct such horrible mistakes and correct them now.”

The Ukrainian leader did not spell out which additional sanctions he wanted imposed on Russia but said its leadership was using the threat of nuclear attack to limit the global response to its invasion.

“The country which is using the nuclear blackmailing should receive the sanctions which should show that such blackmailing is destructive for the blackmailer itself,” he said.

($1 = 1.3380 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by Byron Kaye, Lidia Kelly and John Mair; Editing by Alex Richardson and Tomasz Janowski)