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Ukraine’s Zelenskyy seeks support for peace summit, meets heads of state in Singapore

Ukraine’s Zelenskyy seeks support for peace summit, meets heads of state in Singapore
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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told reporters that China was “working hard” to prevent countries from attending the peace summit. 

Ukraine's Zelenskyy seeks support for peace summit, meets heads of state in Singapore

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy meets Indonesia’s president-elect Prabowo Subianto on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Jun 1, 2024. (Photo: X/Volodymyr Zelenskyy)

02 Jun 2024 10:27AM (Updated: 02 Jun 2024 08:55PM)

SINGAPORE: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the Shangri-La Dialogue on Sunday (Jun 2) that diplomacy – in the form of a peace summit later this month – was the best way to end a “cruel war” that has killed thousands in his country since 2022. 

In an address and question-and-answer session at the security conference in Singapore, Zelenskyy said 106 countries and organisations had signed on for the peace summit in Switzerland, but noted it was disappointing that some world leaders had not yet offered their support. Russia was trying to disrupt the peace efforts, he said.

“We are convinced that our world wants to be united and be capable of acting in complete harmony,” Zelenskyy said.

He later told a news conference that he was not able to meet the Chinese delegation at the conference and was disappointed that Beijing would not attend the summit.

“China, unfortunately, is working hard today to prevent countries from coming to the peace summit,” he told reporters. 

In an address to delegates on Sunday, Chinese Defence Minister Dong Jun said his country had been careful not to support either Russia or Ukraine.

“On the Ukraine crisis, China has been promoting peace talks with a responsible attitude,” Dong said. “We have never provided weapons to either party of the conflict. We have put strict controls on exports of dual-use items, and have never done anything to fan the flames. We stand firmly on the side of peace and dialogue.”

Zelenskyy also thanked countries, including the United States, Germany and the Netherlands, for their military assistance, particularly with air defence systems. Zelenskyy cited a Russian attack on Sunday with nearly 100 missiles – something he said had happened hundreds of times – and noted “no country could handle this alone”.

He later said that although he was grateful to the US for allowing Kyiv to use US-supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) to fire across the Russian border in the Kharkiv region, it was not enough.

He said Russia was using many airfields to launch attacks on Ukraine “knowing that Ukraine will not fire back because it has no responding systems and no permissions”.

TALKS WITH LEADERS

Zelenskyy and his defence minister, Rustem Umerov, had talks with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for more than an hour on Sunday on the sidelines of the conference before his speech. 

Austin updated Zelenskyy on Washington’s military assistance to Kyiv and “reaffirmed the US commitment to maintaining the strong support” during the meeting, a Pentagon official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

“The two leaders pledged to further strengthen the strategic defence partnership between the United States and Ukraine,” the Pentagon official said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy meets US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Jun 1, 2024. (Photo: X/Volodymyr Zelenskyy)
The presidents of Timor-Leste and Ukraine, Jose Ramos-Horta and Volodymyr Zelenskyy, meet on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Jun 1, 2024. (Photo: X/Volodymyr Zelenskyy)

Zelenskyy and Austin last met face-to-face in December in Washington, where Zelenskyy made a last-ditch plea for US aid before it ran out.

The US Congress approved in April a US$61 billion aid package for Ukraine following months of political wrangling, unlocking much-needed arms for the country’s outgunned troops.

On the social media platform X, Zelenskyy said he had also met Indonesia’s president-elect Prabowo Subianto; a delegation from the US Congress; and the president of Timor-Leste, Jose Ramos-Horta.

He said Ramos-Horta had agreed to attend the peace summit, scheduled for mid-June in Switzerland. At last year’s Shangri-La Dialogue, Prabowo had proposed an Indonesian plan for ending the war in Ukraine.

The Shangri-La Dialogue, organised by the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies, ends on Sunday.

Russia has not attended the security summit in Singapore since it invaded Ukraine in 2022. 

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