Zelensky accuses China of helping Russia sabotage Ukraine peace summit

Ukrainian president claims Beijing’s support for Moscow will only extend the war (EPA)
Ukrainian president claims Beijing’s support for Moscow will only extend the war (EPA)

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has accused China of helping Russia to disrupt an upcoming peace conference on the war in Ukraine.

Speaking at Asia’s premier security conference in Singapore, Mr Zelensky alleged Russia had been using Chinese diplomats in the wider Asian region to influence and dissuade countries from attending the peace summit, due to be held in Burgenstock Resort, central Switzerland, on 15 and 16 June.

“Russia, using Chinese influence in the region, using Chinese diplomats also, does everything to disrupt the peace summit,” said Mr Zelensky at a news conference at the Shangri-La defence forum. “Regrettably this is unfortunate that such a big independent powerful country as China is an instrument in the hands of [Russian leader Vladimir] Putin.”

He added that such actions were “not only support to Russia … that is support of war”.

Mr Zelensky said that Ukraine had 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.

He added that Ukraine is “ready to hear various proposals and thoughts that lead us ... to an end of the war and a sustainable and just peace” and that the greater the participation in the summit, the more likely it will be that Russia will have to listen, he said.

In what is only Mr Zelensky’s second trip to Asia since Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the comments on China marked a more aggressive approach from the Ukrainian leader towards Beijing. He has previously sought to persuade China to pressure Moscow to end its war.

Since a phone call between Mr Zelensky and the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, one year ago, the Ukrainian administration has sought meetings with Chinese officials at all levels. But on Sunday, Mr Zelensky said this had not been granted.

Admiral Dong Jun, China’s minister of defence, at the same conference as Mr Zelensky, denied that Beijing supported Russia’s war effort (EPA)
Admiral Dong Jun, China’s minister of defence, at the same conference as Mr Zelensky, denied that Beijing supported Russia’s war effort (EPA)

Ukraine and Switzerland had been hoping that China might attend the summit later this month but, on Friday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning signalled that that was unlikely. China had been calling for a peace conference with equal participation of all sides, including Russia, which has not been invited.

“There is still a clear gap between the arrangements for the meeting and the demands of the Chinese side, as well as the general expectations of the international community," Ms Mao said at the time. “This makes it difficult for China to participate in the meeting."

It was another blow for the summit after it was reported last month that US President Joe Biden would likely be skipping the event to attend a campaign stop in California ahead of the presidential election in November.

China has staked out what it says is a neutral position on the war in Ukraine, but its trade with Russia has grown over the past two-and-a-half years, easing the economic impact of Western sanctions.

American, Ukrainian and other intelligence agencies also say there is evidence that Chinese parts are winding up in Russian weaponry, even if China is not directly arming its neighbour.

Grant Shapps, the UK defence secretary, has additionally claimed there is evidence that China is supplying “lethal aid” to Russia, in comments that appeared to be a reference to weaponry.

Earlier on Sunday, the Chinese defence minister, Dong Jun, told attendees of the Shangri-La Dialogue his country had “been promoting peace talks with a responsible attitude”.

He added: “We have never provided weapons to either party of the conflict. We have put stricter control on the export of dual-use items and have never done anything to fan the flames. We stand firmly on the side of peace and dialogue.”

However, Mr Zelensky claimed that China’s support for Russia would ensure that “the war will last longer”, which he said was “bad for the whole world”.

“[China] cannot say that [they] accept sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and at the same time be on the side of the country that violates the principles of the United Nations charter and the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” he said. He added that the two nations had not met at the summit in Singapore over the weekend.