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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has reiterated his conviction that Russian President Vladimir Putin will not win the war in Ukraine.
“He has already missed all his strategic goals,” Scholz said on Thursday in his speech at the end of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.
“A capture of the whole of Ukraine by Russia seems further away today than it did at the beginning of the war. More than ever, Ukraine is stressing its European future.”
Moreover, he said, the “brutality of the Russian war” has welded the Ukrainian nation closer together than ever before and prompted two states to move closer to NATO: “With Sweden and Finland, two close friends and partners want to join the North Atlantic alliance. They are most welcome!” the German chancellor said.
Putin had also underestimated the unity and strength with which the Group of Seven major industrialized nations (G7), NATO and the EU had reacted to his aggression.
Putin wants to return to a world order in which the strongest dictate what is right, Scholz said. “This is an attempt to bomb us back to a time when war was a common means of politics.” He called for new forms of globalization. “At stake is not only the statehood of Ukraine, but our system of international cooperation, designed in the aftermath of two world wars to the vow of “never again,” he said.
The world needs “a system that subjects power to law, bans violence and guarantees freedom, security and prosperity,” Scholz said.
He said thoughts of the war plagued him beyond his working day, along with fears that it could extend beyond Ukraine. “You can’t switch off, it doesn’t just stop,” he said.
Russia’s war, now in its third month, raged on in Ukraine.
Pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Donbass region are continuing to hold captive the fighters from Mariupol who are now Russian prisoners of war.
“All of them are being held on the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic,” separatist leader Denis Pushilin told Russia’s Interfax news agency on Thursday.
More than 2,400 fighters who had been holding out in the besieged Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol had surrendered by last weekend after weeks of attacks.
Kiev is holding out hopes they might be exchanged in a prisoner swap, also because the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic introduced the death penalty some years ago. Moscow has not yet announced a decision on a possible exchange.
Russia is also in the process of classifying the Ukrainian Azov regiment, whose members are among the captured Mariupol fighters, as a “terrorist organization.” A court case that was part of the process was due to begin on Thursday but has been postponed until the end of June.
In Russia, people found guilty of membership of banned terrorist group can be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison. It was not yet clear how the classification may affect the Mariupol fighters.
Some of the Ukrainian fighters in Mariupol belong to the far-right nationalist Azov regiment, seen by Moscow as a neo-Nazi unit and cited often as justification for what Russia claims is a “special operation” in Ukraine.
Russian claims about the Ukrainian armed forced being infiltrated by neo-Nazis have been dismissed as untenable by analysts around the world.
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