Ninety countries, groups to attend Swiss Ukraine summit

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Fighting continues around Ukraine’s second largest city Kharkiv and the surrounding region.
Fighting continues around Ukraine’s second largest city Kharkiv and the surrounding region.

Nearly 90 countries and organisations, half from Europe, have confirmed attending the Swiss-hosted Ukraine peace summit over the weekend, Switzerland’s president says.

Russia has not been invited but says it would not have attended anyway as the conference is based on the peace proposals of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that the Kremlin rejects.

President Viola Amherd told reporters in the Swiss capital Bern that the summit, on Saturday and Sunday, will aim to chart a path toward possible peace nearly 28 months after Russian forces invaded Ukraine and the war grinds on.

“This is not about propaganda,” Amherd said.

“This is about the basis of humanitarian aid provided by Switzerland, based on fostering peace (and) to provide a platform to initiate a dialogue.”

The Swiss president said that most participants would be top country leaders, with about half represented at the head of state or government level, and “a handful” from organisations like the United Nations.

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz are expected to attend the summit at the Bürgenstock resort overlooking Lake Lucerne in the village of Obbürgen.

US Vice President Kamala Harris will take part on behalf of the United States. 

Swiss army helicopter
About 4000 Swiss military personnel will be deployed to provide security for a Ukraine summit. (EPA PHOTO)

US President Joe Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan will join Harris as part of the US delegation.

About 160 invitations have been sent out and Amherd said it was not a “disappointment” for the Swiss government that fewer than 100 have so far announced participation in the first phase of the peace process.

Swiss authorities said the final list of participants was expected by Friday but key developing countries like Turkey, South Africa and Brazil have not indicated whether they would attend. 

India said it will take part but it is not clear at which level.

Brazil and China said they would not take part unless both sides – including Russia – were at the table, according to Swiss officials. 

Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis also addressed reporters, saying Switzerland has repeatedly acknowledged that there cannot be a peace process without Russia.

“The question is not whether Russia will be on board, the question is when.”

He also said Switzerland is in frequent contact with authorities in Moscow about the conference. 

Ukraine has helped co-ordinate the summit, and Zelenskiy is expected to attend. 

Cassis said Swiss officials had to balance considerations that Ukraine might not have attended if Russia was represented.

Zelenskiy has gone on a diplomatic push to try and lure attendees to the summit. 

He has also accused China and Russia of trying to undermine it. 

The Swiss-hosted conference follows on the heels of the G7 summit in neighbouring Italy.

Swiss officials say the conference aims to set a course toward “lasting peace” in Ukraine, to reach a “common understanding” toward getting there and draw up the “roadmap” on how to get both sides involved in talks. 

Nuclear security, humanitarian aid and food security are also on the summit’s agenda.

As many as 4000 military personnel will be deployed to provide security and support air transportation, surveillance and roll out security fencing and steel wire for the event, officials said, adding that an increase in cyberattacks in the run-up to the summit was noted but did not provide details.

In a Swiss valley deep below a mountain ridge where the resort is, Swiss troops set up a makeshift heliport in a grassy field ringed by barbed wire Monday in preparation for the summit as cowbells clanged nearby.

Russia launched three guided bombs at Ukraine’s northeastern city of Kharkiv on Monday, injuring at least six people and damaging private houses, local officials said. 

At least two houses were damaged in the attack, and more people may remain under rubble, mayor Ihor Terekhov said on Telegram.

At one site, a fire broke out, and several garages and cars were damaged as well, he added. 

Ukraine’s second largest city, Kharkiv and the surrounding region have long been targeted by Russian attacks but the strikes have become more intense in recent months, hitting civilian and energy infrastructure.

Russia denies deliberately targeting civilians but thousands have been killed and injured in its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

with Reuters

AP