Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made his first in-person appearance at the annual meeting of global elites in Davos on Tuesday as he seeks to shore up support in his country’s nearly two-year-old conflict with Russia.
Zelensky will share the spotlight on the second day of talks at the Swiss Alpine ski village with Chinese Premier Li Qiang, the highest-ranking Beijing official to attend the World Economic Forum since 2017.
Wearing a dark sweater and olive green trousers, Zelensky was greeted with a standing ovation as he entered a closed-door meeting of “CEOs for Ukraine” that included top executives from the likes of Bank of America, Siemens Energy and other top corporations.
Media were not allowed to enter the room.
Zelensky had addressed the WEF by video link in the previous editions of the annual meeting of global political and business VIPs.
But Kyiv is scrambling to ensure that support from allies does not waver during the biggest war in Europe since World War II, as the world’s attention has swayed to the Middle East amid fears of a spillover from the conflict in Gaza.
Republicans in the US Congress are blocking a renewal of US military assistance for Ukraine, and Kyiv and its allies worry about reduced support if Donald Trump wins the US presidential election later this year.
European Union leaders will hold talks next month in a bid to approve a 50-billion-euro ($55 billion) aid package for Ukraine that was vetoed in December by Hungary.
The US envoy for Ukraine’s economic recovery, Penny Pritzker, said on Monday the country was facing a “tough moment” and acknowledged “a lot of uncertainty as it relates to the US and EU assistance”.
“I want to give reassurance to Ukrainian people that the American people and America is there for you, even though our politics and democracies can be very complicated,” she said.
- Taiwan elections -
Li will deliver a special address, just days after tense presidential elections at the weekend in Taiwan, the democratic island that Beijing claims as part of China.
After self-ruled Taiwan’s president-elect Lai Ching-te welcomed an American delegation following his election victory, China on Monday hit back that it was “firmly opposed” to all official exchanges between the United States and Taiwan.
Li is joined by Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao, the governor of the People’s Bank of China and high-ranking representatives from other ministries including Deputy Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu.
Li will hold talks with EU chief Ursula von der Leyen, but it is not yet clear if he or the deputy foreign minister will meet US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
- Other VIPs -
Li and Zelensky will be among 60 heads of state and government attending Davos, including Middle East leaders, joined by 800 chief executives among a total of 2,800 participants.
Other key speakers on Tuesday will be von der Leyen and NATO head Jens Stoltenberg. Von der Leyen will also hold private talks with Zelensky as well as Blinken and Hungarian President Katalin Novak.
Politicians and business leaders will discuss how to build consensus on a multitude of risks worldwide including climate change and a cost-of-living crisis.
Attendees will also grapple with how to maintain global trade after attacks by Yemeni rebels in the Red Sea disrupted the key conduit for Asia-Europe shipping.
- Tech on the stage -
Artificial intelligence will also dominate discussions after last year’s flurry of examples demonstrating the technology’s dizzying advances.
Despite the excitement, there are worries about the threats posed by AI.
Misinformation and disinformation driven by AI ahead of elections in countries, including the United States, are the biggest global risks this year and next, the WEF said last week.
The International Monetary Fund’s managing director, Kristalina Georgieva, told AFP in an interview that AI would affect 60 percent of jobs in advanced economies.
There will be an array of discussions at Davos during formal and informal events with some of the biggest names in tech, including the chief executive of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, and OpenAI’s Sam Altman.
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