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Watch: Zelenskyy accuses China of pressuring other countries not to attend upcoming Ukraine peace talks

Watch: Zelenskyy accuses China of pressuring other countries not to attend upcoming Ukraine peace talks
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Ukraine is trying to whip up attendance at the peace meeting in Switzerland this month where it hopes to win broad international backing for its vision of the terms needed to end Russia’s war.
 

Watch: Zelenskyy accuses China of pressuring other countries not to attend upcoming Ukraine peace talks

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during the 21st Shangri-La Dialogue summit at the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore on Jun 2, 2024. (Photo: AFP/Nhac Nguyen)

02 Jun 2024 02:31PM (Updated: 02 Jun 2024 08:55PM)

SINGAPORE: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused China on Sunday (Jun 2) of helping Russia to disrupt an upcoming Swiss-organised peace conference on the war in Ukraine.

Speaking at Asia’s premier security conference, Zelenskyy said that China is pressuring other countries and their leaders not to attend the upcoming talks. He did not say which ones.

“Russia, using Chinese influence in the region, using Chinese diplomats also, does everything to disrupt the peace summit,” he said at a news conference at the Shangri-La defence forum in Singapore. 

“Regrettably this is unfortunate that such a big independent powerful country as China is an instrument in the hands of (Russian leader Vladimir) Putin.”

China has staked out what it says is a neutral position on the war, putting it at odds with Ukraine, the United States and most of Europe.

Its trade with Russia has grown, easing the economic impact of Western sanctions, and US, Ukrainian and other intelligence agencies say there is evidence that Chinese parts are winding up in Russian weaponry, even if China is not directly arming its neighbour.

The Swiss had been hoping China would attend the peace conference in mid-June, but Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning signalled on Friday that it was unlikely. China has been calling for a peace conference with equal participation of all sides, including Russia, which has not been invited.

“There is still a clear gap between the arrangements for the meeting and the demands of the Chinese side, as well as the general expectations of the international community,” Mao said. “This makes it difficult for China to participate in the meeting.”

The foreign ministry did not respond immediately to a request for comment on Zelenskyy’s accusation.

Chinese Defence Minister Dong Jun speaks at the Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore, Jun 2, 2024. (Photo: Reuters/Edgar Su)

The Ukrainian leader said of China’s pressure on others, “That is not only support to Russia, that is basically support of war.”

In a speech to the security conference earlier in the day, Zelenskyy urged top defence officials to attend the upcoming talks in Switzerland, saying he was disappointed at the failure of some countries to commit to joining.

Chinese Defense Minister Dong Jun spoke before Zelenskyy at the Shangri-La conference but he did not appear to be in the room when Zelenskyy made his appeal.

Dong did not specifically mention the Switzerland meetings in his address to the forum, but did say “on the Ukraine crisis, China has been promoting peace talks with a responsible attitude.”

He added that China had not provided weapons to either side of the conflict.

“We have never done anything to fan the flames,” he said. “We stand firmly on the side of peace and dialogue.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy shakes hands with Singapore’s Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen while standing alongside Bastian Giegerich, Chief Executive of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), as they attend the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Jun 2, 2024. (Photo: Reuters/Edgar Su)

Zelenskyy said that Ukraine had proposals to make at the summit as a basis for peace, addressing nuclear security, food security, the release of prisoners of war and the return of Ukrainian children abducted by Russia.

“Time is running out, and the children are growing up in the Putin-land where they are taught to hate their homeland,” he said.

At the same time, Zelenskyy said Ukraine is “ready to hear various proposals and thoughts that lead us … to an end of the war and a sustainable and just peace.”

The greater the participation, the more likely it will be that Russia will have to listen, he said.

“The global majority can ensure with their involvement that what is agreed upon is truly implemented,” he said.

Zelenskyy said he planned to meet one-on-one with Singapore’s prime minister and would urge him to participate in person in the Switzerland talks.

“The same goes for the countries in the region,” Zelenskyy said through an interpreter. “We truly count on you supporting this summit, and that you will be present in Switzerland.”

Singapore Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen, who shared the stage with Zelenskyy, did not say whether his country’s leaders would attend, but did note Singapore had condemned the invasion and provided Ukraine with military ambulances.

“We stand with you, and I think your appearance at this Shangri-La Dialogue is the epitome of what we are all hoping for, a rules-based order that guarantees the security and survival of large nations and small,” he said.

In separate remarks to reporters later in the day, Dr Ng said that, in principle, he did not see any reason for Singapore not to attend the peace talks. However, he added that it would be up to the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Prime Minister Lawrence Wong to make the decision. 

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin sat in the front row as Zelenskyy spoke. In an address Saturday, Austin told the security conference that “Putin’s war of aggression has provided us all with a preview of a world that none of us would want.”

“We’ve all been inspired by the courage of Ukraine’s troops and the resilience of Ukraine’s people,” Austin said. “People around the world have rushed to help Ukraine defend itself, including countries across the Indo-Pacific.”’

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