Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s minister of digital transformation, hadn’t left the country since Russia invaded three months ago. But he traveled hundreds of miles from Kyiv to Davos, Switzerland, to send a message to some of the world’s biggest technology companies: We need you to do more.
Fedorov said in an interview with CNN Business that he met directly with Nick Clegg, head of global affairs at Meta, Facebook’s (FB) parent company, at the World Economic Forum. He also had meetings with representatives from Microsoft (MSFT) and Google (GOOGL).
“Each of us can do even better,” he said.
Almost 500 tech companies have left Russia since President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, by Fedorov’s count. But he called out tech firms Cloudflare and SAP for continuing to operate in Russia, which he said undermines the effectiveness of the “digital blockade.”
“When a company is working in the Russian market, it pumps funds into the Russian budget from which money gets to the Russian army. This enables killing Ukrainians,” Fedorov said.
Germany’s SAP, which makes business software, said in April it planned to exit Russia. But Fedorov said the company is slow-walking its departure and needs to move faster.
“I’m convinced eventually they will leave Russia, sooner or later — but sooner [is better] than later, because people are getting killed,” he said.
SAP said in a statement to CNN Business that it’s having “an ongoing dialogue with the Ukrainian government, which included conversations at Davos.”
“SAP has stood in solidarity with the Ukrainians since the start of Russia’s unjustified war, including by initiating the closure of our direct business in Russia and providing significant technological and humanitarian aid to Ukraine,” the company said. “The principles guiding our decisions included fully implementing sanctions as a responsible member of the global community, as well as going beyond those sanctions where and how we could.”
Cloudflare, meanwhile, has said it is still operating in Russia in order to protect the flow of uncensored information to Russians.
“They say they allegedly are there to defend some kind of democracy,” Fedorov said.
In a statement, the cloud services operator said it “has minimal sales and commercial activity in Russia” and has “terminated any customers we have identified as tied to sanctioned entities.” It said it “has also worked diligently and donated services for free to Ukrainian websites, networks and critical infrastructure to help them stay online and secure.”
Fedorov emphasized that a “digital blockade” is an important tool to fight back against Russia, since it can set the country back “two or three decades,” encouraging engineers and other specialists to leave.
“We also want people in Russia to understand that ‘Guys, something is wrong.’ And they have to stand up against war,” Fedorov added.
In meetings with Meta and Google, Fedorov said he discussed countering disinformation, blocking propaganda channels and creating “a green corridor” for information from Ukrainian media outlets and bloggers so it doesn’t get blocked.
Ukraine’s digital ministry also continues to push for direct donations to support the defense and reconstruction of the country. At Ukraine House, the delegation’s hub in Davos, visitors can contribute via credit card, bank transfer or PayPal, or with cryptocurrency.
On Wednesday, Kalush Orchestra, the Ukrainian winner of this year’s Eurovision song contest, announced that it was raffling off its trophy to the highest bidder to raise money for Ukraine’s military. Bids can be made in crypto.
The recent rout in crypto markets has hurt the Ukrainian government’s fundraising efforts. Fedorov said that a few weeks ago, the government had brought in about $70 million in crypto. Now, that number is between $60 million and $65 million, he estimated.