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Zelenskyy insists Biden attend peace summit in Switzerland

Zelenskyy insists Biden attend peace summit in Switzerland

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reiterated Tuesday that U.S. President Joe Biden should attend a peace summit next month in Switzerland to send a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin and other world leaders.

Speaking at a joint news conference with Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo in Brussels, Zelenskyy said the peace summit, scheduled for June 15 and 16 at the Buergenstock Resort near Lake Lucerne, will be “organized by the whole world,” and other leaders will be looking to the U.S.’s response.

Zelenskyy said 90 countries have now committed to the summit, and that Putin fears it because he never believed so many nations would support it.

“He [Putin] disrupted this summit and continues to do so. And that is why he is now thinking of setting up a parallel platform,” Zelenskyy said, adding that Putin would applaud Biden’s absence at the summit.

Zelenskyy sent a video on Sunday appealing to Biden to attend the summit. The Ukrainian president recorded the video in a burned-out printing house in Kharkiv that was destroyed last week by Russian missiles.

The White House has been noncommittal about Biden’s attendance. He is the only leader among the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations that has not accepted the invitation.

During a briefing last week, national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters that said while he planned to attend the summit, he “had no statement” on Biden’s attendance.

Zelenskyy was in Brussels on Tuesday, following a trip to Spain, to secure more than $1 billion in new military aid from Belgium in an agreement that includes delivery of 30 F-16 fighter jets. He was also visiting Portugal on the three-nation trip.

Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, right, and Belgium’s Defense Minister Ludivine Dedonder, left, pose for a photo with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in front of an F-16 at Melsbroek military airport near Brussels, May 28, 2024.

The Ukrainian leader said the 10-year agreement included cooperating with Belgium on intelligence, cybersecurity, countering disinformation and the defense industry.

European Union defense ministers are also meeting Tuesday in Brussels seeking to overcome Hungary’s objections to providing billions in military aid to Ukraine. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a staunch Putin ally, is reportedly blocking about $7 billion in assistance.

The defense ministers expect to hear Tuesday from NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who suggested Monday that restrictions on Ukraine should be eased to allow it to use Western weapons on targets outside its borders.

Speaking to reporters ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, Stoltenberg maintained that once again, there are legitimate targets outside Ukraine’s borders that can be fired upon as part of its self-defense. He said using NATO-supplied weapons to fire on those targets would not make the alliance part of the conflict.

“We have the right to support Ukraine without becoming a part of the conflict, because we are helping Ukraine to uphold the right for self-defense,” Stoltenberg said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the West is risking a direct confrontation with Russia and a subsequent global war, should it allow Ukraine to strike inside Russia with Western weapons.

Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Press.