Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a Thursday morning speech at the Ukrainian breakfast at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that he does not "quite understand if [Russian President Vladimir Putin] is alive or whether he makes decisions," Ukrainian media outlet Pravda reported.
"I don't quite understand who to talk to and about what," Zelensky said. "I'm not sure that the Russian president who sometimes appears against a green-screen chromakey is actually the [right] one. I don't quite understand if he is alive or whether he makes decisions, or whoever else makes decisions there. What group of people [could be making any decisions in Russia]? I don’t have that kind of information.
"I don't quite understand how you can promise European leaders one thing, and the next day launch a full-scale invasion of a country. I just don't quite understand with whom we are dealing. When we say "peace talks", I don't quite understand with whom [we should be negotiating].
"We are talking to you now: you know exactly who I am, and I know exactly who you are. There are witnesses to the fact that we are alive. And even if we talk about different things, we can reach a consensus."
Russian response to Zelensky's allegations
The Kremlin responded to Zelensky's implications in the early afternoon on Thursday, according to Russian state-owned news agency RBC.
Russian press secretary Dmitry Peskov made a statement saying:
“It is clear that both Russia and Putin are a big problem for Ukraine and for Zelensky. And it is clear that, purely psychologically, Mr. Zelensky would prefer that neither Russia nor Putin exist. But the sooner the Ukrainian regime realizes...that Russia and Putin exist and will [continue to] exist, that sooner or later [Ukraine] will still have to give up everything anti-Russian, the better for a country like Ukraine."
Ukraine's goals at the World Economic Forum
As Kyiv attempts to secure more modern arms from its allies, it has stepped up a parallel effort to lock in financial support from business leaders in Davos to help rebuild the country.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine last year, the United States and its allies have given tens of billions of dollars' worth of weaponry, but Kyiv is still desperate for more, and keen to ride a wave of Western public support to ensure that pledges for its reconstruction are more than just words.
Ukraine, which dominated the WEFs last big meeting in May, has again sent dozens of executives, lawmakers and decision-makers with a clear message from President Volodymyr Zelensky: commit now, not later.
Reuters contributed to this report.