Zelensky accuses some Arab leaders of ‘turning a blind eye’ to Russian invasion of Ukraine

Ukrainian president says Arab states should understand his country ‘will never submit to any foreigners or colonisers’

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Friday 19 May 2023 21:28 BST
Volodymyr Zelensky arrives in Jeddah to participate in the Arab League summit
Volodymyr Zelensky arrives in Jeddah to participate in the Arab League summit (SPA/AFP via Getty)

Volodymyr Zelensky has accused some Arab leaders of “turning a blind eye” to Russia’s invasion of his country.

The Ukrainian president on Friday attended an Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia in an effort to seek support in the region for his war effort.

Appearing to evoke the Arab world’s own history of occupation, he said the leaders in the hall would understand that Ukraine “will never submit to any foreigners or colonisers”, adding: “That’s why we fight.”

But Mr Zelensky added: “Unfortunately, there are some in the world, and here among you, who turn a blind eye to those [prisoner of war] cages and illegal annexations.

“I’m here so that everyone can take an honest look: no matter how hard the Russians try to influence, there must still be independence.”

Syria, whose president Bashar al-Assad attended the meeting, has backed Russia’s invasion, while other states in the group have sought to maintain good relations with Moscow.

Saudi Arabia, which hosted the summit, has supported a UN resolution calling for Russia to withdraw its troops, and pledged $400m (£321m) in humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

But it has resisted imposing sanctions on Russia, and has presented itself as taking a neutral position on the conflict.

Russia enjoys some economic links with most Gulf states, as a fellow member of the oil producers’ alliance OPEC+.

Shortly after arriving in Jeddah, the Ukrainian leader wrote on Twitter: “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia plays a significant role and we are ready to take our cooperation to a new level.”

Mr Zelensky will travel to Japan on Sunday to meet with G7 leaders, while British PM Rishi Sunak is due to give a press conference at the summit.

On Friday, Mr Sunak warned Vladimir Putin that the UK and other allies of Ukraine were “not going away”.

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