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MSC 2024: Ukraine's Zelenskyy rallies leaders for support

Published February 17, 2024last updated February 17, 2024

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has opened discussions at the Munich Security Conference. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also rallied Western leaders against the threat from Russia.

President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, speaks during the 2024 Munich Security Conference on February 17, 2024
Zelenskyy addressed the conference urging leaders to fight to maintain a rules-based orderImage: Johannes Simon/Getty Images
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

  • German Chancellor Olaf Scholz opens discussions at the Munich Security Conference, saying Europe must be able to defend itself
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy calls on the world to support his war-torn country
  • US VP Harris says Congress must stop playing 'political games' on Ukraine aid
  • German opposition leader tells DW more needs to be done on military expenditures 
  • China's FM defends Beijing's stances on Xinjiang, Taiwan

This live blog is now closed, for more on the Munich Security Conference, click here

Skip next section Zelenskyy meets US delegation at Munich Security Conference
February 17, 2024

Zelenskyy meets US delegation at Munich Security Conference

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy held talks with a delegation of Republican and Democratic members of the US House of Representatives and the US ambassador to Germany on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference on Saturday.

Zelenskyy shared a short video clip from the meeting online. 

"We discussed the battlefield situation and the development of defense industries," he wrote. "I also elaborated on Ukraine's progress in drone production." 

This comes amid the deadlock in the lower chamber of Congress on agreeing to the latest package of assistance for Ukraine

"We hope that the House of Representatives will make decisions to ensure further necessary US support for Ukraine. We must win this war. And we must do so in unity, defending our shared values," Zelenskyy said.

Skip next section Anti-Russia, Iran protests in Munich amid conference
February 17, 2024

Anti-Russia, Iran protests in Munich amid conference

As MSC attendees discuss the numerous conflicts facing the world, rallygoers at Munich's Odeonplatz square are raising the alarm about the behavior of Russia and Iran.  

Pro-Ukrainian protesters gather at Munich's Odeonplatz
Pro-Ukrainian protesters hold signs such as 'Arm Ukraine Now'Image: Johannes Simon/Getty Images

Pro-Ukrainian protesters urged attendees to keep supporting Kyiv as Russia presses forward with its ongoing invasion. The protesters called for arms for Ukraine and to let the country be welcomed in the NATO alliance, with Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko also present at one of the rallies.

Anti-Iranian protesters at Munich's Odeonplatz
Protesters urged MSC attendees to stand up to the Iranian governmentImage: Sven Hoppe/dpa/picture alliance

Other demonstrators called attention to alleged Iranian human rights abuses and urged regime change in the Middle Eastern country. 

Skip next section Azerbaijani, Armenian leaders seek to avoid conflict after Scholz meeting
February 17, 2024

Azerbaijani, Armenian leaders seek to avoid conflict after Scholz meeting

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz meets with Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev
Scholz's meeting with the two leaders came amid high tensions between Armenia and AzerbaijanImage: SVEN HOPPE/AFP

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan met on Saturday with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and sought to continue working towards peace in the Caucasus region.    

"The chancellor praised pledges from both sides today, to resolve differences in opinion and open questions exclusively through peaceful means and without the use of force," the German chancellery said in a statement. 

Scholz's meeting with the two leaders came after Armenia and Azerbaijan traded blame over a deadly border clash on Tuesday. Armenia said four of its soldiers were killed in the exchange and on Thursday accused Azerbaijan of planning a "full scale war."

Azerbaijan, meanwhile, claimed two of its soldiers wounded by an Armenian drone strike and blamed Yerevan for the hostilities.   

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan during the MSC
The US also sought to deescalate tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan on SaturdayImage: THOMAS KIENZLE/AFP

Pashinyan and Aliyev also met with Blinken in Munich on Saturday. US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said that Blinken and Aliyev had talked about ongoing peace efforts in the region.   

Azerbaijan swifly took control of the Armenian-majority Nagorno-Karabakh region last September. This caused a mass exodus of Armenians from the enclave, with the US and Germany condemning Azerbaijan's military operation.   

Skip next section Dutch PM Rutte says Europe should stop 'whining about Trump'
February 17, 2024

Dutch PM Rutte says Europe should stop 'whining about Trump'

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told DW that European countries should stop focusing on a potential second term of US President Donald Trump and instead focus on boosting defense expenditures and helping Ukraine. 

"First of all, I would say let's stop moaning and nagging and whining about Trump because we do not know who is the next president," Rutte said ahead of the November US presidential election.

Trump is expected to face Democratic President Joe Biden in a rematch, with Biden being more friendly towards European allies. 

"We need to invest in our defense expenditure. We need to massively ramp up arms production and we need to massively do more in support to Ukraine. This has nothing to do with Trump," Rutte asserted. "This has to do with the US, Canada, Iceland, Norway, United Kingdom, the EU, NATO countries, all of us making sure that we stay safe, that our values are protected by protecting Ukraine and making sure that our defense is at maximum capacity."        

Skip next section Zelenskyy speech focus switched from speed to staying power: DW analysis
February 17, 2024

Zelenskyy speech focus switched from speed to staying power: DW analysis

DW's international editor Richard Walker is at the MSC again this year and compared Zelenskyy's comments to the forum in Munich in the last two years. 

"In 2023 Zelenskyy's message was all about speed — that Ukraine's supporter had to act faster in getting military aid to Ukraine. He was preparing a counter-offensive at the time and urgently needed the gear and training to make it a success," Walker says. "It was not a success — and now he's having to battle a resulting sense of pessimism about Ukraine's chances, and the toxic heat of a US election year. 

"So Zelenskyy's focus this weekend switched from speed to staying power — urging the world not to give up on Ukraine and fall for what he called the 'myth that Ukraine cannot win this war.' It was a message aimed squarely at Trump-aligned Republicans hoping to end US military support for Ukraine altogether. What hasn't changed is the stakes for Ukraine's independence and Zelenskyy himself — failure at any stage will mean the end."    

The US House of Representatives, which is currently majority Republican, is currently sitting on $60 billion ($55.6 billion) in aid for Ukraine. The aid could make a major difference in Ukraine's efforts to stave off Russia's invasion. 

Dmitri Alperovitch, the chairman of the US-based Silverado Policy Accelarator think tank, told Richard Walker that continued failure to clear the planned assistance could have dire consequences for Ukraine.

"If Ukraine does not get aid, you may see Russian troops again near Kyiv and have potential to take Kyiv, not in the coming months, but potentially by the end of the year," Alperovitch said.  

Skip next section Harris rebukes 'political games' over Ukraine aid during talks with Zelenksyy
February 17, 2024

Harris rebukes 'political games' over Ukraine aid during talks with Zelenksyy

US Vice President Kamala Harris in a press conference with Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelenskyy
US Vice President Kamala Harris said it in US interests to back more aid for Ukraine Image: TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images

US Vice President Kamala Harris held a press conference with Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, where the two leaders discussed aid efforts for Ukraine. 

The US House, which as a Republican majority, is currently sitting on a $60 billion aid package for Ukraine. The aid was already passed by the US Senate, which has a slight Democratic majority.  

"As it relates to our support for Ukraine, we must be unwavering and we cannot play political games," Harris said.  

Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson has said he will not be "rushed" on the package. Johnson says any bill must also include new, tougher measures on the US border to Mexico. But some Republicans have also voiced doubts on more aid for Ukraine. 

Zelenskyy told Harris that Ukraine was relying on a "positive decision" from US lawmakers regarding the "vital assistance."

Skip next section Merz on Israel: 'They deserve our full support'
February 17, 2024

Merz on Israel: 'They deserve our full support'

CDU leader Friedrich Merz also discussed his recent trip to Israel and current Israeli operations in Gaza. Israel has been warned against pursuing a military offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah by the UN, senior US and European officials and others. Around 1.5 million Palestinians have been shelteringthere and officials say any attack on the overcrowded district would have grave humanitarian consequences. 

"We all want to see Israel taking care for civilians," Merz told DW. At the same time, the politician said Israel has to "finalize their fight against the Hamas terrorists."

Merz said any criticial comments he had would be delivered to Israeli officials privately.

"I am talking to them behind closed doors," Merz said. "But I will never give public advices with the raised finger to the Israeli government. They have their own problems. They have to resolve it and they deserve our full support."  

Skip next section CDU leader Merz discusses Ukraine, Trump's NATO remarks
February 17, 2024

CDU leader Merz discusses Ukraine, Trump's NATO remarks

Friedrich Merz, the head of the conservative Christian Democratic Union party and leader of the opposition in the German Bundestag parliament, spoke with DW's Michaela Küfner regarding Ukraine, European defense efforts and the Israel-Hamas war

In regards to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's speech at the MSC, Merz said Zelenskyy seemed "extremely grateful" to those giving aid to Ukraine "for almost two years now."

"On the other hand, he described the challenges in Ukraine with his people and he asked for more support," Merz said. "And that is, in my view, still necessary. We have to give support to Ukraine potentially for a longer period of time than we thought at the very beginning of this conflict."    

As Europe seeks to beef up its security amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Merz discussed shortcomings regarding Germany's military expenditures.  

"The so-called 'Sondervermögen' is a good thing but there has more to follow to the fill the gap, which is still between the actual budget and the 2% goal, which is roughly €80 billion ($86 billion) per year," Merz said.       

German CDU head and parliamentary opposition leader Friedrich Merz speaks to DW
German opposition leader Merz, in an interview with DW, said more still needs to be done when it comes to Germany's military expendituresImage: Dirk Thiele/DW

After Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced a special supplementary fund for defense spending over several years, known as the "Sondervermögen." Scholz says the fund will help Germany hit the 2% NATO defense spending target for the first time this year

Former US President Donald Trump, who is now running again for the White House, has recently suggested that he would "encourage" Russia to do "whatever the h--- they want" to countries which do no meet NATO spending guidelines. 

Trump says he won't protect Nato allies from Russia: DW's Stefan Simons reports

"We have to our homework here. And that is correctly said by Trump and is [said in a] more friendly and polite [way] by others, by Biden, that the Europeans have to do more for their own security. And that's the way we are going," Merz told DW.

His CDU has not opposed the defense spending increases, with Merz if anything criticizing the government in Berlin for acting too slowly or too little to help Ukraine.

Skip next section Blinken, Baerbock speak on Israel, Middle East
February 17, 2024

Blinken, Baerbock speak on Israel, Middle East

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, and Indian Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishakar also spoke together on a panel, where Israel, the Palestinians and the Middle East were among the main topics of discussion. 

Blinken outlined efforts on Arab normalization with Israel. Bahrain, the UAE, Morocco and Sudan have all agreed to normalize ties with Israel under the framework of the Abraham Accords in recent years.

The US secretary of state claimed that "virtually every Arab country now genuinely wants to integrate Israel into the region." He also spoke of Arab efforts to "reform the Palestinian Authority so it can be more effective in representing the interests of the Palestinian people." 

Both Blinken and Baerbock said the October 7 terror attacks, which were carried out by Hamas, must never happen again.   

Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad was also in attendance, and asked Baerbock why US allies like Germany had not recognized the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization. Alinejad was with a woman who she said was shot in the eye during the Iranian uprising last year amid the protests following the death of Jina Mahsa Amini.    

Germany has not listed the IRGC as a terrorist organization, nor has the EU, although the issue was raised at the European Parliament amid the protests.

Baerbock said there was a specific legal system in the EU regarding the designation of terror organizations.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock
German Foreign MInister Annalena Baerbock said the EU had hit IRGC members with sanctions, although the EU does not list the group itself as a terrorist organizationImage: Johannes Simon/Getty Images

"We need a legal ground to list them," Baerbock said, referring to the IRGC. "So far we do not have evidence and proof that there have been terrorist attacks in the European Union. It's a different legal system in the US."

She said the EU had instead set up human rights sanctions systems which banned IRGC members from the bloc and frozen their assets.   

Skip next section Wang Yi: China is 'force for stability'
February 17, 2024

Wang Yi: China is 'force for stability'

During a speech at the MSC, Chinese Wang Yi said his country will remain a "force for stability' amid conflicts around the world. 

"No matter the changes in the international situation, China as a responsible major country will always maintain the continuity and stability of its major policies, and resolutely stay a force for stability in a turbulent world," Wang said.   

During a one-on-one conversation with MSC chair Christoph Heusgen, Wang also reiterated his government's stances on topics such as allegations about the use of forced labor of Uyhgurs in the western province of Xinjiang.  

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks at the Munich Security Conference
Wang is known for practicing assertive "Wolf Warrior" diplomacy in China's interestsImage: Johannes Simon/Getty Images

German chemical company BASF said this week it will take its joint operations out of Xinjiang amid allegations regarding the abuse of Uyghurs, an ethnic Muslim minority in China. German automobile giant Volkswagen is also under pressure to pull out of Xinjiang after forced labor allegations printed in the German Handelsblatt paper.     

Wang said there was "fabricated information" regarding Xinjiang. He said the Uyghur population in Xinjiang is growing, and added that "religious freedom in Xinjiang is effectively guaranteed."  

On the allegations of forced labor, Wang said it is a "groundless accusation" that seeks to deprive Uyghurs of employment.  

On Taiwan, Wang said it is "China's internal matter."

China-Taiwan conflict: How it could ruin the global economy

"Taiwan is part of China. It was never a country," Wang said.  

Wang's comments come amid fears that China could invade Taiwan in the coming months or years. During a recent election in Taiwan, the center-left Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and its leader Lai Ching-te had a landmark victory, angering China.  

Lai and the DPP have rebuked China's sovereignty claims over Taiwan. 

Skip next section Baerbock reportedly disinvited from women's breakfast panel with Hillary Clinton
February 17, 2024

Baerbock reportedly disinvited from women's breakfast panel with Hillary Clinton

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock was reportedly disinvited from a women's breakfast at the conference, sources told DW. 

DW journalist Rosalia Romaniec, who is at the Munich event, said the plan was for Baerbock to speak at a panel with former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. 

"But that was apparently not what the host of the meeting — the Bavarian State government wanted," Romaniec said.  

Romaniec said Clinton ended speaking by herself without Baerbock. Romaniec mentioned that Clinton spoke about feminist foreign policy, a cause championed by Baerbock. 

Baerbock is a member of the environmentalist Greens, which is currently in the German federal coalition with the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) and business-focused Free Democratic Party (FDP).   

The Bavarian state government, meanwhile, is dominated by the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU). The CSU, along with its conservative sister party the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), are currently in opposition to the German federal government.   

Skip next section G7 foreign ministers observe minute's silence for Navalny
February 17, 2024

G7 foreign ministers observe minute's silence for Navalny

Foreign ministers of the Group of Seven (G7) observed on Saturday a minute's silence for Russia's late opposition leader Alexei Navalny, at the start of their meeting in Munich.

G7's Italian presidency said the minute's silence was held to pay respects to Navalny and honor him.

"For his ideas and for his battle for freedom and against corruption in Russia, Navalny was de facto led to death," Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said as he opened a gathering of the G7 on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference in Germany.

He called on Moscow to "shed light on his death and stop its unacceptable repression of political dissent," in an Italian Foreign Ministry statement.

Skip next section US lawmaker says 'we will get there' on aid to Ukraine
February 17, 2024

US lawmaker says 'we will get there' on aid to Ukraine

US Senator Pete Ricketts, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has told a panel discussion at the Munich Security Conference that the US Congress will resolve its internal conflicts over aid to Ukraine, but that it could take time.

"Democracy is messy, every country has its own priorities. It is a process, as we have other issues as well, but we will get there," said Ricketts, a Republican senator for Nebraska.

Skip next section Estonia's PM says all NATO members are equal
February 17, 2024

Estonia's PM says all NATO members are equal

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas has stressed that all NATO members are equal after US President Donald Trump said Washington might not defend some members.

"There are big and small allies; everyone brings something to the table. That is what the alliance is all about," she said.

"Time is working in Putin's favor and against the rules-based order. So, everybody is looking at the United States. The stakes are high," Kallas said, referring to the stalled US aid to Ukraine.

Earlier this week, the Estonian prime minister was placed on a wanted list by Russia because of her efforts to remove Soviet-era World War II monuments.

Skip next section Stoltenberg says US must deliver 'what they promised' to Ukraine
February 17, 2024

Stoltenberg says US must deliver 'what they promised' to Ukraine

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, speaking at a panel discussion at the Munich Security Conference, called for the United States to deliver "what they have promised" to Ukraine, while a $60-billion package of military aid was blocked in Congress.

There was a "vital and urgent need for the US to decide on a package for Ukraine because they need that support", Stoltenberg told the conference, adding: "So now it's for the US to deliver what they have promised".

He also said no member of the defense alliance is now at risk. "The world has become more dangerous but NATO has become stronger," Stoltenberg said.

"All NATO allies have increased their defense spending. This year, we expect 18 NATO members to meet the 2% target," he added.

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