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Summit of Hopes

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Photo: Switzerland Aims to Foster Peace, Provided Others from G20 Assist. The village of Burgenstock in Switzerland, situated on the shores of Lake Lucerne, is set to host world leaders in June at the Peace Summit for Ukraine. Source: LakeLucerne
Photo: Switzerland Aims to Foster Peace, Provided Others from G20 Assist. The village of Burgenstock in Switzerland, situated on the shores of Lake Lucerne, is set to host world leaders in June at the Peace Summit for Ukraine. Source: LakeLucerne

Exactly a week after Swiss President Viola Amherd announced the honour of inviting world leaders to the first Peace Summit in Ukraine in the town of Burgenstock, Russian troops crossed the border into Ukraine's Kharkiv region and began destroying the border town of Vovchansk. This new escalation of aggressive invasion seems to be Moscow's response to the initiative to hold a Peace Summit to halt the largest military actions in Europe since World War II. What to expect from the Summit, which is due to start exactly a month from now, on June 15th?


So far, it appears that the Russian delegation has not been invited to the Peace Summit in Burgenstock, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is expressing strong Kremlin displeasure at this move.

"You can't talk to just anyone, especially not with us. The conference... comes down to Russia's ultimatum being reiterated," said Lavrov. He made this statement earlier this week, three days after Russian troops once again crossed into Ukrainian territory through the border in the Kharkiv region, located in the northeast. In 2022, Russian forces attempted to advance in the Kharkiv region, aiming to seize the second-largest city in Ukraine, the nearly one-and-half-million-strong Kharkiv. But their advance was repelled, and most of the region was liberated from Russian control by the autumn of 2022.


Another Fire

Ever since the liberation of the northern and eastern districts of the Kharkiv region, the Russians have been amassing forces along the border and crossed it on the night of May 9th to 10th. Russian troops penetrated Ukraine again in the north of the region, as well as near the town of Vovchansk, located 73 km east of Kharkiv. Why now? It seems like the perfect storm has brewed. That is, on May 7th, the so-called inauguration of Vladimir Putin took place. Indeed, in this definition, "so-called" is indicative of the civilised world's attitude towards the actions of the Kremlin dictator.


Photo: As soon as Switzerland confirmed readiness to host the Peace Summit, Russia began to destroy the border Ukrainian town of Vovchansk. Source: Kharkiv-OPr

On April 17th, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, in its Resolution 2540 (2024), once again declared Putin's illegitimacy as President of the Russian Federation: "In accordance with its Resolution 2519 (2023), the Assembly does not recognize the legitimacy of Vladimir Putin as President of the Russian Federation and reiterates its call on member states and observers of the Council of Europe and the European Union to cease all contacts with him, except for humanitarian purposes and in the pursuit of peace."


But Putin was not invited to the Peace Summit in Burgenstock. Is this the right decision? In March 2022, it might have been called wrong. But now, after a series of cases of Moscow unilaterally breaking its commitments under previous agreements, it is absolutely logical. The previous two years have clearly demonstrated that the Kremlin only fulfills signed commitments under strong military pressure. And no other way. It's enough to recall how the Russians put Turkey in its place, which tried to play the role of guarantor in the Black Sea Grain Initiative.


Topical Discussions

The preliminary announcement of the Peace Summit in Ukraine was made back in January 2024, during Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's visit to Switzerland and negotiations with Swiss Confederation President Viola Amherd. At that time, the location of the Summit was not yet known, but the purpose of this event was evident.


Speaking alongside his Swiss counterpart Viola Amherd at a press conference in Bern, Volodymyr Zelensky, of course, could not name the future participants of the planned peace summit, but hinted at the desired circle. "We are open to all countries that respect our sovereignty and territorial integrity at the peace summit, so draw conclusions about whom we invite," Zelensky said in January 2024. He specifically mentioned that representatives of developing countries should be invited: "We would like the Global South to be present... It is important for us to show that the whole world is against Russia's aggression and for a just peace."


And yet, despite Moscow's support from Beijing, Zelensky expressed a sincere desire to involve China in the Peace Summit: "We would very much like China to be involved in our formula (of peace), as well as in the summit... But not everything depends on our desires."


And it is quite understandable why Zelensky's voice was hopeful for China's participation but not confident that the invitation would necessarily be accepted.

The point is that Ukraine plans to present its peace formula at the Peace Summit in Switzerland, and another acceptable option for Kyiv is still unknown. We are talking about the formula that Zelensky first announced in November 2023 at the G20 summit: restoring the territorial integrity of Ukraine, withdrawing Russian troops and ending hostilities, as well as releasing all prisoners and detainees. Of course, the Kremlin rejects such a prospect, referring, among other things, to the fact that in the autumn of 2022, it included the Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson regions in the text of the country's constitution. Crimea was included in the Russian constitution as Russian territory as early as March 2014.


Thus Putin and his accomplices have consciously put themselves in a deadlock in terms of negotiations – they reject from the outset the issue of restoring the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Since autumn 2022, all the military efforts of the Russian Federation have been aimed at capturing four regions within their administrative borders. The regional centers of the listed regions are controlled only in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions – Luhansk and Donetsk were captured as early as 2014.


Kherson was occupied in the spring of 2022, but later liberated. Zaporizhzhia and the territories closest to it on the left bank of the Dnipro are controlled by Ukraine, as before. Part of the territories of the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions on the left bank of the Dnipro are still occupied by Russians. This includes the city of Enerhodar in the Zaporizhzhia region, where the largest nuclear power plant in Europe is located – Zaporizhzhia NPP with its 6 power units of 1000 MW each. These units are currently shut down.

Photo: President of Switzerland Viola Amherd is steering her country towards leadership in peacekeeping efforts. Source: president.gov.ua

Homework

On May 2, Swiss President Viola Amherd officially announced on X (formerly Twitter): "I am honoured to invite world leaders to the first Peace Summit in Ukraine on June 15-16. Let's advance dialogue based on the UN Charter towards peace. Global cooperation is the key to shaping a peaceful future."


With 30 days left until the Peace Summit, Kyiv is diligently working on its homework, preparing for the upcoming event. In particular, on May 14, it became known that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky held telephone conversations with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, and Luxembourg Prime Minister Luc Frieden. All of them confirmed their future participation in the Global Peace Summit in Switzerland.


These are key countries for many directions that are critically important for Kyiv. Canada leads the International Coalition for the Return of Ukrainian Children. Sweden demonstrates some leadership in defense support and preparation for the Ukraine-Northern Europe Summit. According to preliminary data, Luxembourg plans to finance defense assistance to Ukraine.

By the evening of May 14, it became known that the President Emmanuel Macron of France and the President Yoon Suk Yeol of the Republic of Korea had agreed to participate in the summit. Responses regarding participation in the Summit from other invited leaders are also expected.

For Switzerland, the upcoming Peace Summit will likely be the most ambitious attempt by this neutral country to act as a mediator in the largest conflict in recent years. And its new role demonstrates the convergence of Switzerland's economic and security interests with the interests of Western Europe against the backdrop of Russian aggression in Ukraine.


Photo: Ukraine is actively exploring the possibility of India's participation in the Peace Summit. On May 13, a telephone conversation took place between the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Andrii Sybiha and the Secretary (West) of the Ministry of External Affairs of the Republic of India Pavan Kapoor. Source: MFA_UA


However, there are also quite negative signals. There are more and more reports that the focus of the agenda of this summit is shifting from ending the war as such to the goal of reducing the risks associated with Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, as well as resolving related humanitarian problems. That is, there is a risk that instead of focusing on treating the disease, we will focus on reducing symptoms. And this is a big problem, as Russia, as already noted, only fulfills agreements under powerful pressure – in the form of sanctions, confiscation of foreign Russian assets, and a sharp increase in military aid to Ukraine, which is defending itself against the aggressor.

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