President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, speaks during the 2024 Munich Security Conference on February 17, 2024 in Munich, Germany.

Johannes Simon | Getty Images News | Getty Images

MUNICH, Germany — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he was willing to take U.S. presidential hopeful Donald Trump, a long-time skeptic of Washington’s support for Kyiv, to the war-battered front lines of Ukraine.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, Zelenskyy on Saturday said that he had already welcomed the Republican frontrunner to see first hand the impact of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, but that the decision to come rests with Trump.

“I invited him [Trump] publicly, but it depends on his wishes,” he said in response to an audience question, asking whether Zelenskyy would ask Trump to come to Kyiv.

“If Mr. Trump will come, I’m ready to go with him to the front lines,” he added.

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment.

Trump has been highly critical of the U.S.’s continued financial and military aid for Ukraine, deeming it a non-American issue and suggesting that he would allow Russia to “take over” parts of Ukraine if he were re-elected in November.

He has also spoken highly of Russian President Vladimir Putin, expressing admiration for the Kremlin chief’s strongman approach and saying even last weekend that he would “encourage” Putin to do what he wants to NATO members who fail to meet their funding commitments.

However, Trump appeared to flip the script Wednesday, telling a campaign rally that he would do more to support Ukraine than incumbent President Joe Biden — a fierce advocate of funding for Kyiv.

The comments came just hours after Putin said Wednesday that he would prefer the re-election of Biden in November, dubbing him a “more predictable” leader.

Ramped up support for Ukraine

On Friday, Zelenskyy travelled to Germany, where he met with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron and signed new bilateral security pacts with their countries.

The wartime president is also due to hold talks at the conference with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, Czech President Petr Pavel, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, among others.

It comes at a critical juncture for the war, as Ukrainian troops try to hold back Russian forces closing in on the eastern town of Avdiivka.

The European Union earlier this month passed an additional funding bill of 50 billion euros ($54 billion) for Ukraine, overcoming longstanding opposition from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

In the U.S., a $95 billion aid package, which includes substantial additional support for Ukraine, faces tough opposition in the House of Representatives after being approved Tuesday by the Democrat-led Senate.

U.S. Democratic Sen. Chris Coons told CNBC on Friday that he was “optimistic” that the bill would be approved, albeit with “some back and forth,” arguing that support for Ukraine was the U.S.’s best defense against direct combat with Russia.

Navalny death ‘murder’

Zelenskyy also used his speech to address the reported death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in a Siberian penal colony, dubbing it murder.

“Putin kills whoever he wants, be it an opposition leader or anyone who seems a target to him,” he said, adding that Putin “maintains power through corruption and violence,” and that the death of Navalny was a clear message to those gathered at the conference.

The reports from Russia’s prison service have not yet been independently verified, but world leaders reacted with shock and dismay to the news Friday.

U.S. President Joe Biden said in a White House address that “Putin is responsible,” while European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she was “deeply disturbed and saddened.”

Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya, was met with a standing ovation, as she addressed the Munich Security Conference shortly after the announcement, saying that Putin and his cronies “will be punished for what they have done with our country, with my family, and with my husband.”

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said that the Western reaction to Navalny’s reported death is “self-exposing” at a time when no forensic medical examination is yet available.

The Kremlin has previously denied involvement in the mediatized poisoning of Navalny and has committed to investigate his death.

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