President Poroschenko of Ukraine held up a jagged piece of yellow metal riddled with shrapnel holes at the World Economic Forum in Davos today and said it was a piece of a civilian bus that had been hit by a Russian missile earlier this month, killing 14 people. He alleged that the attack demonstrated Russian intervention in Ukraine was akin to terrorism.
Poroschenko said there were 9,000 Russian troops and 500 Russian tanks in the Crimea area of Ukraine, in addition to an unspecified number of “armed persons” sympathetic to Russian control of the region. Russia has repeatedly denied these claims.
But Poroschenko’s main message today was that Russian intervention in Ukraine has cost the lives of civilians. His keynote speech at Davos — a conference attended by CEOs, politicians and other members of the 1% — wasn’t much of a surprise but it contained some uncomfortable moments for the dozen or more members of the Russian delegation sitting in the audience, not to mention numerous other Russian business people who are at the conference.
The bus was hit by a missile while at a Ukraine-controlled road-block in Donetsk. Initial reports said 11 people were killed by Poroschenko today said that number was 14. At the time, Russian officials suggested the Ukrainians had shelled themselves.
He also explicitly likened Russia to a terrorist state. “We are not afraid of terror because we are united,” he said. “The fight against terror demands our joint efforts.” He said he had marched against terror in France after the Paris attacks and said Ukraine’s fight was the same. While Poroschenko has obviously criticised Russian intervention in his country before, his idea that Putin is a “terrorist” is relatively new and hasn’t been widely aired in the European media yet.
As for Russia, he said, “The solution is simple. Stop supplying weapons. Stop supplying ammunition. Withdraw the troops and close the border.” In return, “We will guarantee a vote in this region.”
The chunk of metal, which had various-shaped holes in it, was a rare moment of drama at a conference characterised by speakers droning on about the “new political context,” the need for “change” and “innovation” and other vague platitudes. Even so, it was somewhat stage-managed. Poroschenko was asked a bunch of softball questions following his speech and there was no airing of the Russian side of the argument.
Still, watching him hold a piece of what appeared to be a destroyed civilian vehicle was jarring.
Poroschenko also addressed the economic situation in Ukraine. The economy is contracting and Ukraine may default on some of its debt. “I’d like to thank my investors,” he said, pointing at two people sitting in the front row of the conference’s main hall who, he said, had pledged to inject $US600 million into the Ukraine economy and $US400 million into the Ukraine economy. “War is very expensive!”
Here is another look at that piece of the bus:
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