Ukraine’s president made a surprise video appearance Saturday at the Doha Forum in Qatar, calling on the energy-rich nation and others to increase production to counter the loss of Russian energy supplies.
Volodymyr Zelensky called on the United Nations and world powers to come to his aid, as he has done in a series of other speeches around the world since the start of the Russian military assault on Ukraine on 24 February. This time, he urged oil and gas producers to increase production so that Russia cannot use its energy reserves to “blackmail” other nations.
“They can do a lot to restore justice. The future of Europe depends on your efforts. I ask you to increase energy production to ensure that everyone in Russia understands that no country can use energy as a weapon and blackmail the world,” he added. noted.
The Ukrainian leader called Qatar a “responsible” state and a reliable exporter of energy resources, and said its contributions could help stabilize Europe.
Russian crude oil exports have fallen due to widespread economic and energy sanctions against the country in response to its invasion of Ukraine.
Zelensky also criticized Russia for what he described as threatening the world with its nuclear weapons, raising the possibility of tactical nuclear weapons being used on the battlefield.
“Russia deliberately boasts that it can destroy with nuclear weapons not only a certain country but the entire planet,” Zelensky said.
He compared Russia’s destruction of the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol to the Syrian and Russian destruction of the city of Aleppo during the Syrian war.
“They are destroying our ports,” Zelenskyy said. “The lack of exports from Ukraine will be a blow to countries around the world.”
The loss of Ukrainian wheat has already worried Middle Eastern countries like Egypt, which depends on these exports.
As wartime misery deepens in Ukrainian cities, food shortages grow in a country once known as the breadbasket of the world.
Mariupol in southern Ukraine has been besieged by Russian forces for more than three weeks, suffering multiple waves of bombardments, which have cut off the city’s electricity and communication lines as well as food supplies and in water. From a population of 430,000 before the invasion, there remain between 100,000 and 150,000 people.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Saturday that civilians trying to leave Mariupol should leave in private cars because Russian forces were not allowing buses to pass their checkpoints around the city. Ukraine and Russia have swapped blame when humanitarian corridors have failed in recent weeks.
Mayor Vadym Boichenko reported that street fights were taking place in central Mariupol.
Elsewhere, Russian troops seized the town of Slavutych, near the border with Belarus and where workers at the Chernobyl plant live, on Saturday, kyiv region governor Oleksandr Pavlyuk said.
He added that soldiers occupied a hospital and kidnapped the mayor. The reports could not be independently verified.
Slavutych sits just outside the so-called exclusion zone around Chernobyl – which in 1986 was the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster – where Ukrainian staff continued to work even after the plant itself was seized by Russian forces soon after the invasion began.