Russia-Ukraine crisis

World leaders join Ukraine summit in test of Kyiv’s diplomatic clout


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World leaders join Ukraine summit in test of Kyiv’s diplomatic clout

FOR KYIV. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during a press statement, during the Summit on peace in Ukraine, in Stansstad near Lucerne, Switzerland, Saturday, June 15, 2024.


(1st UPDATE) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accuses Beijing of helping Moscow undermine the gathering

BUERGENSTOCK, Switzerland – World leaders gathered at a Swiss mountain resort on Saturday, June 15, to try to build support for Ukraine’s peace proposals at a summit skipped by US President Joe Biden, shunned by China, and dismissed as a waste of time by Moscow.

More than 90 countries will take part, but China’s absence in particular has dimmed hopes the summit would show Russia as globally isolated, while recent military reverses have put Kyiv on the back foot. The war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas has also diverted the world’s attention from Ukraine.

The talks are expected to focus on broader concerns triggered by the war, such as food and nuclear security, and a draft of the final declaration identifies Russia as the aggressor, sources said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has trumpeted the summit’s wide attendance as a success and said agreements from it would be part of the peacemaking process.

“Ukraine never wanted this war. It’s a criminal and absolutely unprovoked aggression by Russia,” he said alongside Swiss President Viola Amherd, who said the conflict had brought “unimaginable suffering” and violated international law.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called the gathering an important step. “Many questions of peace and security will be discussed, but not the very biggest. That was always the plan,” he said, speaking to Welt TV.

“This is a small plant that needs to be watered, but of course also with the perspective that more can then come out of it.”

Biden has sent US Vice President Kamala Harris to represent him – riling Kyiv – while Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will be represented by his foreign minister and India dispatched a lower level delegation. Beijing is staying away after Russia was frozen out of proceedings.

Harris announced more than $1.5 billion in energy and humanitarian aid for Ukraine, where infrastructure has been pounded by Russian airstrikes since the 2022 invasion.

A military helicopter hovered over the luxury Buergenstock resort overlooking Lake Lucerne on Saturday as leaders arrived by helicopter on a patch of grassland fenced off with razor wire while cows grazed nearby.

On the eve of the summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia would end the war only if Kyiv agreed to drop its NATO ambitions and hand over four provinces claimed by Moscow – demands Kyiv swiftly rejected as tantamount to surrender.

Putin’s conditions apparently reflected Moscow’s growing confidence that its forces have the upper hand in the war. Scholz cast them as an attempt to muddy the waters.

“Everyone knows that this is not a serious proposal, but had something to do with the peace conference in Switzerland,” he said in a separate TV interview.

Neutral Switzerland, which took on the summit at Zelenskyy’s behest, wants to pave the way for a future peace process that includes Russia.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Putin’s proposal had “shown the real path to peace”.

“If you want to save the world, discuss Vladimir Putin’s proposal…Only those who do not want peace can’t see, can’t understand it,” TASS news agency quoted her as saying.

China and Russia

Zelenskyy has accused Beijing of helping Moscow undermine the gathering, an accusation China’s Foreign Ministry denied.

“The summit risks showing the limits of Ukrainian diplomacy,” said Richard Gowan, UN Director at the International Crisis Group.

The leaders of France, Germany, Italy, Britain, Canada, and Japan are among those due to attend. Turkey and Hungary, which maintain friendlier ties with Russia, are also expected to join.

European officials privately concede that without support from Moscow’s main allies, the summit’s impact will be limited.

“What can (Zelenskyy) hope for out of it?” said Daniel Woker, a former Swiss ambassador. “Another small step forward in international solidarity with Ukraine.”

Supporters of Ukraine are marking the talks with a series of events in the nearby city of Lucerne to draw attention to the war’s humanitarian costs, with a demonstration planned to call for the return of prisoners and children taken to Russia.

“I’m clinging to the idea that my husband is still alive,” said Svitlana Bilous, the wife of a soldier who has been missing for more than 14 months. “That’s what keeps me going.” –

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