World leaders meet in Switzerland as Ukraine seeks aid amid war with Russia

Absence of China in summit raises questions over point of event, which Russia dismissed as ‘futile’.

Ukraine’s Zelenskyy (centre) is welcomed by Switzerland’s ambassador to Ukraine Felix Baumann (left) and other officials as he arrives at the Zurich airport ahead of the Ukraine summit [Michael Buholzer/AFP]Published On 15 Jun 202415 Jun 2024

World leaders are gathering in Switzerland for a summit aimed at pressuring Russia to end its war in Ukraine, but the absence of powerful allies of Moscow such as China is expected to blunt its potential impact.

United States Vice President Kamala Harris and the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan are among those expected to join Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the summit starting on Saturday.

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India, Turkey and Hungary, which maintain friendlier relations with Russia, are also expected to join.

But China is staying away after Russia was frozen out of proceedings on the grounds it had dismissed the event as “futile” and had expressed no interest in attending.

Without China, Western hopes of isolating Russia have faded, while recent military reverses on the battlefield have put Ukrainian forces on the back foot.

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

“Nonetheless, it is also a chance for Ukraine to remind the world that it is defending the principles of the UN Charter.”

Moscow’s demands

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that Russia would end the war if Ukraine agreed to drop its NATO ambitions and hand over the entirety of four provinces claimed by Moscow – demands Kyiv swiftly rejected as tantamount to surrender.

Ukraine and the US swiftly dismissed Putin’s demands, but his statement apparently reflected growing confidence that Russian forces have the upper hand in the war.

Speaking from Italy shortly before leaving for Switzerland, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told ZDF television in an interview: “Everyone knows that this was proposal wasn’t meant seriously, but had something to do with the peace conference in Switzerland.”

Russia casts what it calls its special military operation in Ukraine as part of a broader struggle with the West, which it says wants to bring Russia to its knees.

Ukraine and the West reject this and accuse Russia of waging an illegal war of conquest.

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

About 90 countries and organisations have committed to the two-day gathering due to take place at the Buergenstock, a mountaintop resort in central Switzerland.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies