Zelensky urges Biden to attend Ukraine peace summit, warning that only Putin would approve of his absence

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is urging Joe Biden to attend an upcoming Ukraine peace summit in Switzerland, emphasizing that only Vladimir Putin would “applaud” him if he chooses not to participate.

The Biden administration has shown unwavering support for Kyiv. However, recent reports indicate that President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris may not attend the summit. This news comes as a significant setback for Mr. Zelensky, although there is still an expectation of some level of Washington’s presence.

Concerns have been raised about Mr. Biden’s changing interests as he prepares to go head-to-head with former president Donald Trump in the upcoming US presidential election.

More than 80 countries are expected to participate in the upcoming two-day summit in Switzerland, scheduled for 15 and 16 June. However, some major global players, such as China and the US, have chosen not to attend, while Russia has not received an invitation.

The summit seeks to unite heads of state and government in an effort to forge a path towards a “just and enduring peace” in Ukraine. It is rooted in the principles of the UN Charter and Ukraine’s own “Formula for Peace,” which was introduced by President Zelensky in November 2020.

“I believe it would be essential for President Biden to attend the summit in person. While we are aware of America’s support for the event, we are uncertain about the level of representation,” expressed Mr. Zelensky during a press conference held in Brussels.

“I respectfully disagree with the decision, taking into account the support we have received from individuals across the United States. However, the current situation is quite straightforward.”

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“I think it’s crucial for President Biden to attend this peace summit. Other leaders also see his presence as important because they value the response of the United States.”

“Biden’s absence would surely be met with an enthusiastic applause from Putin, a personal and resounding applause from the Russian leader.”

During his visit to Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, which is located just 30 miles from the Russian border, Mr. Zelensky extended an earlier invitation to Mr. Biden and China’s leader, Xi Jinping, to participate in the summit.

In recent weeks, Russian forces in the vicinity have been carrying out relentless airstrikes on the city and the surrounding area. They have also launched attacks across the border, seizing over 65 square miles of territory that they had been driven out of by Ukrainian troops two years ago in response to the initial invasion.

Russia has dismissed the Swiss summit as “pointless” and reiterated its demands for any peace negotiation to acknowledge the “new territorial realities” in Ukraine. This refers to the four regions that Putin illegally annexed in September 2022, which are now only partially occupied by his forces, as well as the Crimean peninsula that Moscow annexed in 2014, causing international outcry.

According to a diplomatic memo, Russia has been actively discouraging nations in Asia, Africa, and South America from attending the conference. President Putin, along with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other officials, have held meetings and engaged in conversations with counterparts from numerous countries in an apparent effort to dissuade their participation.

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According to Mr. Zelensky, Putin’s fear of the summit demonstrates its crucial significance. He asserts that for any peace plan in Ukraine to be effective, Russian forces must retreat from all Ukrainian territory, including Crimea, and return to the borders established in 1991 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

On Tuesday, he acknowledged that the conference was still awaiting indications of participation from the US and China. Additionally, his team is actively engaged in persuading Brazil to attend as well.

India, being a member of the Brics community, which is an international alliance comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, has officially announced its participation in the summit. This serves as a significant boost for the event.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has cited the upcoming elections in South Africa as the reason for the country’s non-attendance at the event.

The Chinese Ambassador to Switzerland expressed support for peace talks in March and mentioned that they were currently exploring the potential for participation.

China has recently expressed its support for a peace conference that includes the equal participation of all parties and fair discussions of all peace options, to be convened at an appropriate time.

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