President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says it is “obvious” that Ukraine would not be the last stop on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion and it is vital that the West not delay deliveries of weapons to help repel Russia’s forces.
The Ukrainian leader told the Munich Security Conference by video link on Friday that while the West was negotiating supplies of tanks for Kyiv, the Kremlin was thinking of ways to “strangle” the former Soviet republic of Moldova just west of Ukraine.
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“It’s obvious that Ukraine is not going to be his last stop,” Zelenskyy said. “He’s going to continue his movement all the way, … including all the other states that at some point in time were part of the Soviet bloc.”
Moldova, which is sandwiched between Ukraine and Romania, has often been at the centre of a struggle between Moscow and the West. Tensions in Moldova have risen periodically, especially because of a Kremlin-backed breakaway region on its eastern border where Russia has stationed about 1,500 troops.
On Monday, Moldova’s president, Maia Sandu, said Moscow was plotting to overthrow her government and install an illegitimate one that “would put our country at the disposal of Russia in order to stop the European integration process”.
She accused Russia of trying to use Moldova in the war against Ukraine.
Zelenskyy said last week that his country had intercepted plans by Russian security services to destroy Moldova, claims that were later confirmed by Moldovan intelligence officials.
There was no immediate reaction from Moscow, but Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said this month that the West was considering turning Moldova into “another Ukraine”.
On Friday, Zelenskyy also urged the West to maintain speedy weapons deliveries to his country.
“Delay has always been and still is a mistake,” Zelenskyy said as he called on his allies to “hurry up”.
He made his opening remarks in English as he addressed the security conference, an annual gathering of leading politicians, military officers, security officials and diplomats, a week before Ukraine marks the first anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion.
Despite his warnings, Zelenskyy also said he did not think Russia could win.
He likened Ukraine to David and Russia to Goliath in the biblical tale in which the underdog David, armed only with a sling, defeats a giant in combat. Zelenskyy said David won against Goliath by action rather than conversation and Goliath “has no chances”.
“We need the speed – speed of our agreements, speed of our delivery to strengthen our sling, speed of decisions to limit Russian potential,” Zelenskyy said.
French President Emmanuel Macron later urged Kyiv’s allies to “intensify” their backing for Ukraine’s counteroffensive as the West warns of a new Russian offensive to coincide with the war anniversary on February 24.