Zelenskiy arrives in Singapore for Shangri-La Dialogue

By Gerry Doyle and Idrees Ali

SINGAPORE(Reuters) -Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskiy arrived in Singapore for the Shangri-La Dialogue conference on Saturday, where he planned to meet U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and discuss support for his embattled country in an address to delegates.

After arriving at the conference venue in a motorcade amid heavy security, Zelenskiy said in a statement on the social media platform X that he had come to gather support from the Asia-Pacific region for a peace summit planned for June 15-16 in Switzerland.

"Global security is impossible when the world's largest country disregards recognised borders, international law, and the U.N. Charter, resorts to hunger, darkness, and nuclear blackmail," the statement said, referring to Russia, which invaded Ukraine in 2022.

The statement said Zelenskiy planned to hold several meetings, including with Singapore’s President Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, Timor-Leste President José Ramos-Horta, Austin, and Singaporean investors.

A U.S. official said Zelenskiy and Ukrainian Defence Minster Rustem Umerov would meet Austin "to discuss the current battlefield situation in Ukraine and to underscore the U.S. commitment to ensuring Ukraine has what it needs to defend itself against ongoing Russian aggression".

The International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS), which organises the security conference, said Zelenskiy would participate in a discussion session on Sunday entitled "Re-Imagining Solutions for Global Peace and Regional Stability".

Zelenskiy said on Wednesday that Russia is trying to disrupt the Switzerland peace summit, which he hopes will generate support for the withdrawal of Russian troops and the restoration of Ukraine's 1991 borders.

Reuters first reported his planned trip to Singapore on Friday.

It is Zelenskiy's second trip to Asia since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. In May 2023, he attended the G7 meetings in Japan.

Russia has begun renewed assaults against Ukrainian lines and has stepped up missile attacks in recent months. Russian troops have made small gains in Ukraine's east and south, even as Kyiv's allies accelerate shipments of ammunition and other arms.

Russia has not attended the Shangri-La Dialogue since the invasion.

The United States this year approved $61 billion of weapons for Ukraine, some of which - such as Patriot missiles and ATACMS precision ballistic missiles - have already arrived there.

On Thursday, U.S. officials said President Joe Biden had assured Ukraine it could use U.S. weapons to strike targets across the border in Russia that were being used to attack areas around Kharkiv, a city in Ukraine's northeast.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned NATO members against allowing Ukraine to fire their weapons into Russia and on Tuesday once again raised the risk of nuclear war.

Sweden also approved a new security package this week worth about $1 billion that included armoured vehicles, and for the first time, airborne warning and control aircraft that can spot targets in the air at extreme distances.

Austin, who spoke earlier on Saturday at the Shangri-La Dialogue, noted in his remarks that the support for Ukrainian forces pushing back against Russia's invasion for more than two years showed that countries around the world could rally in the face of aggression.

The Shangri-La conference, held annually in Singapore by the International Institute of Strategic Studies for the last 21 years, ends on June 2.

(Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)