Ukraine war: Volodymyr Zelenskyy accuses China of being 'Russia's instrument' in disrupting Swiss peace summit

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused China of helping Russia disrupt a global peace conference in Switzerland.

Speaking at the Shangri-La defence forum in Singapore, Asia's premier security conference, on Sunday, Mr Zelenskyy said China is pressuring other countries and their leaders not to attend the "Summit on Peace in Ukraine", scheduled for 15-16 June.

"Russia, using Chinese influence in the region, using Chinese diplomats also, does everything to disrupt the peace summit," he said.

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"Regrettably this is unfortunate that such a big independent powerful country as China is an instrument in the hands of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin."

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

Appearing in a video last week, Mr Zelenskyy appealed to his US and China counterparts to join the Swiss summit, but Beijing said on Friday it would not be attending because Russia would not be taking part alongside Ukraine.

US President Joe Biden, on the other hand, is set to miss the summit so he can make it to California for a campaign fundraiser alongside George Clooney and Julia Roberts, Bloomberg reported.

Russia, which has found itself increasingly isolated from the West since it launched the full-scale invasion of its smaller neighbour back in February 2022, has not been invited to the talks.

It says the summit will be meaningless without its presence.

In a speech earlier on Sunday, Mr Zelenskyy urged top defence officials to attend the forthcoming summit, saying he is disappointed at the failure of some countries to commit to joining.

Mr Zelenskyy said Ukraine has 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.

In Ukraine, emergency power shutdowns have been imposed in most of the country except for three regions, a day after Russia launched large-scale attacks on energy infrastructure and claimed it made gains in the eastern separatist province of Donetsk.

Saturday's drone and missile attacks on energy targets injured at least 19 people.

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Mr 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 added.

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

Mr Zelenskyy said "we truly count on you supporting this summit, and that you will be present in Switzerland," while referring to Singapore and other countries in the region.

Earlier in the day in his address to the forum, Chinese Defence Minister Dong Jun did not specifically mention the Switzerland meetings, but did say "on the Ukraine crisis, China has been promoting peace talks with a responsible attitude".

He added China has 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."

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin also attended the conference and sat in the front row as Mr Zelenskyy spoke.

Mr Austin told the group 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," he said.

"People around the world have rushed to help Ukraine defend itself, including countries across the Indo-Pacific."