Appearing via live video feed, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy took questions from corporate leaders Wednesday at the Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute's CEO Summit.
Zelenskyy asked business and government leaders to move their operations out of Russia and into Ukraine and called for unity in support of his country's efforts to drive Russia out, CNBC reports.
"This is our common war," the Ukrainian president said in response to questions from Sarah Eisen of CNBC, which carried the event live. "The companies that are represented in the Russian market should leave. The most important thing is do not pay taxes to the Russian financial system, because this money is used to fund this Russian war machine that is killing Ukrainians."
"As the president of Ukraine, I'd like your companies to consider not only the option of leaving Russia, but also finding their place in the Ukrainian economy," he added.
Every country has an interest in defending Ukraine, Zelenskyy said, because weapons technology has shrunk the distance between nations.
"If the enemy can reach us, it can reach every country of the European Union," he said. "And I'm sure that the enemy can reach the United States. We strive to defend the principles of democracy and freedom."
Lloyd Blankfein, the former CEO of Goldman Sachs, asked how the war in Ukraine can reach an acceptable outcome.
Zelenskyy responded by pushing for further isolation of Russia.
"Russia has a voracious appetite," he said. "It does not abide by laws of business, which means they're going to dictate their own terms to you as well. So can you really do business with Russia now? Can you have your branches, your offices, in this country?"
Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya, founder of the Tent Partnership for Refugees, said he saw something on his visits to the Ukraine-Poland border that he had never seen in other conflict zones.
"Ordinary citizens lining up to receive [refugees] and sharing what they have," Ulukaya said. "That is something that, as human beings, we are hungry to see."
He asked Zelenskyy how the business community can respond to the humanitarian crisis that has developed as a result of the war.
"Ukrainian people want to come back to Ukraine," Zelenskyy said. "All of these people [refugees] need support. I can say it candidly: They need financial support."
According to the Yale School of Management, Zelenskyy appeared at the invitation of Professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, the founder of the Chief Executive Leadership Institute and the creator and host of the CEO Summit, who has been a vocal supporter of Ukraine.
Sonnenfeld and a team of staff and students created "the Russia list," tracking the companies that have stopped doing business in Russia and those that have remained.
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