The phone has become the Ukrainian president’s most effective weapon | Volodymyr Zelensky

In a series of phone calls from a beleaguered Kiev, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy persuaded the West to agree to a set of sanctions against Russia that were inconceivable a week ago.

Sensing how European public opinion reacts to the bravery of his people, Zelenskiy has been constantly on the phone with Western leaders, using his Twitter feed to cajole, encourage, scold and praise his allies. In the process, the sanctions considered unthinkable a week ago have become a moral reference. The pace at which the West has accepted the new sanctions has also left lawyers, officials and bankers breathless, officials admit, as they work under heavy pressure to turn the headlines into reality.

One leader’s office said, “We are in awe of him. He may not be able to save Ukraine or change Russia, but he is changing Europe.

Take Saturday’s diplomacy. Zelenskiy said he opened another day on the diplomatic frontline with a phone call to Emmanuel Macron, followed as the day went on by calls to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. to the Italian Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, to the President of Switzerland, Ignazio. Cassis, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, UN Secretary General António Guterres, German Chancellor , Olaf Scholz, the Pope, the Czech Prime Minister, Petr Fiala, the Polish President, Andrzej Duda, and finally a last virtual drink with the British Prime Minister.

The day before, the number of calls was similar, all focused on requests for weapons and tougher penalties. It’s hard to understand how Zelenskiy managed to make those calls, rally the home front, lead his army, and sleep. Anyone who has heard him in action says, “He’s very direct, very passionate and very practical.” But the calls produced golden rewards for Zelenskiy and helped turn the tide.

The pace of societal change is accelerating in most wars, but watching Germany in the space of a week take a 180-degree turn and roll back arms sales to Ukraine, pledge to increase defense spending at 2% of GDP and agreeing to cut Russia from Swift is not just a set of extraordinary policy changes, it marks a turning point in a post-WWII mindset. Likewise, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, stressing earlier in the week the need for long-term solutions needed to wean Italy off Russian gas, realized that previous political opposition to immediate steps more strict had evaporated.

His office rejects reports that he raised strong objections to Russia being cut off from Swift, saying the issue was not seriously addressed at G7 leaders’ meetings last week, but they admit Zelenskiy , by its ingenuity, and Russia, by its arrogance, had given the initiative to countries like the United Kingdom, Canada and France to convince others to accept that Russia could be cut off from the systems of Swift payment. As of Saturday evening, the identities of Russian banks likely to be cut were still being established, but Gazbank, essential to energy transactions, is expected to be ruled out.

    Zelenskiy and Johnson hail decision to cut Russian banks from Swift – video
Zelenskiy and Johnson hail decision to cut Russian banks from Swift – video

But perhaps the most devastating measure being considered does not come directly from Zelensky’s relentless lobbying. Some European leaders believe that it will be the completely unexpected freezing of the assets of the Russian central bank, the most important Russian financial institution, which will prove the collapse of Putin’s economy. A European official said: “It has been kept in our back pocket, but that will mean a run on the ruble on Monday that they won’t contain.”

Another official admitted that the long-term chances for the Ukrainian military to resist vastly superior Russian forces are limited. The real goal is to make Putin’s price economically and politically so high that he is forced to realize he cannot win on his terms.

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