Sunday, 16 June 2024 04:33

What to know after Day 843 of Russia-Ukraine war

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US VP Harris announces $1.5 billion in Ukraine aid at Switzerland peace summit

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris pledged America's unwavering support for Ukraine and announced more than $1.5 billion in aid for the country's energy sector and its humanitarian situation as a result of Russia's 27-month invasion.

Harris made the announcement at the Ukraine peace summit in Lucerne, Switzerland, where she met with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. She is expected to address the summit's plenary session at 5.30 pm CEST/11.30 am EST.

"This war remains an utter failure for (Russian President Vladimir) Putin," Harris said during a bilateral meeting with Zelenskiy. "It is in our interest to uphold international norms," she added, pledging U.S. support for the country.

The $1.5 billion includes $500 million in new funding for energy assistance and the redirecting of $324 million in previously announced funds toward emergency energy infrastructure repair and other needs in Ukraine, the vice president's office said.

"These efforts will help Ukraine respond to Russia's latest attacks on Ukraine energy infrastructure by supporting repair and recovery, improving Ukraine's resilience to energy supply disruptions, and laying the groundwork to repair and expand Ukraine’s energy system," Harris' office said.

She also announced more than $379 million in humanitarian assistance from the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development to help refugees and other people impacted by the war.

The money is to cover food assistance, health services, shelter, and water, sanitation and hygiene services for millions of Ukrainians.

Harris, who will spend less than 24 hours at the gathering will be standing in for President Joe Biden at the event. The president will be just ending his participation at the G7 summit in Italy and returning to the United States to attend a fundraiser for his reelection campaign in Los Angeles.

Biden met with Zelenskiy both at the G7 summit, where they signed a U.S.-Ukraine bilateral security agreement, and in France for events surrounding the 80th anniversary of the World War Two D-Day invasion.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan will represent the United States at the summit on Sunday and help establish working groups on returning Ukrainian children from Russia and on energy security.



Zelensky conference not about peace – Kremlin

Russia has ‘nothing to say’ to the participants of the ongoing Swiss-hosted Ukraine ‘peace conference’, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Saturday.

The Kiev-sponsored event is taking place at the Burgenstock Resort in Switzerland, and is reported to involve over 160 delegations, including those from the G7, G20, and BRICS countries. Despite being a party to the conflict, Russia has not been invited to the event, prompting Peskov to state that Moscow has no message for the participants.

“We have nothing to tell them, we want to get together next time at a more substantive and promising event,” Peskov said, reiterating earlier statements that the talks cannot yield a peaceful solution to the conflict without Russia.

“The issue of peace in Ukraine is not being discussed in Switzerland. Humanitarian and quasi-humanitarian issues are being discussed...” he stated, noting that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most recent proposal for a truce has been openly shunned by the participants of the summit.

Speaking at a Foreign Ministry meeting on Friday, Putin signaled that Russia would order a ceasefire and start negotiations if Kiev fulfilled several conditions: ceding all five former Ukrainian regions that voted in referendums to join Russia, including Crimea; removing troops currently present in these regions; giving up its bid to join NATO; pledging not to seek to acquire nuclear weapons, as well as “demilitarization,” “denazification,” and respect for the rights of the Russian-speaking population.

To achieve a lasting peace, all of these points should be recognized at international level and be followed by the removal of Western sanctions on Russia, the president said.

Putin’s offer was immediately rejected by Ukraine’s Vladimir Zelensky, who called it an “ultimatum.” Western officials were also quick to criticize the proposal. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the conditions are a ploy to distract the public from the Swiss talks, while US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin claimed that Putin is “not in any position to dictate” the terms of a peace deal.

Commenting on the Western reactions to Putin’s offer, Peskov dismissed them as “not constructive.”

Russia has stated that it would not take part in the Swiss conference even if invited. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in March that the event would likely only focus on Ukraine’s positions and promote Zelensky’s so-called ‘peace formula’, which goes against Russian interests.

The number of countries and organizations taking part in the summit has been steadily dropping in recent days, with many invitees opting out due to the absence of a Russian delegation. The final list of attendees includes representatives from 92 countries, nearly half of the originally expected number, and eight international bodies.



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