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Zelenskyy hails Switzerland's involvement in upcoming peace summit on Ukraine

Europe
 Swiss President Viola Amherd, right, listens to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, as they address the media after their bilateral talks in Kehrsatz near Bern, Switzerland, on Jan. 15, 2024. [AFP]

During a working visit in Bern, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed his gratitude to Switzerland, a country of “global importance,” for its support of Ukraine and for its efforts to promote justice and “fair peace.”

“I am grateful for your principled political support of Ukraine from the first day of Russia's full-scale invasion. I thank you for joining the European sanctions packages. And, of course, for our joint work on the implementation of the Peace Formula," Zelenskyy said, addressing his Swiss counterpart, Viola Amherd, during a meeting with media representatives following their talks in Bern.

The two leaders agreed to start  preparations for the Global Peace Summit on Ukraine in Switzerland. Planning for the event will start as early as Tuesday.

Zelenskyy hailed Switzerland’s partnership in organizing the upcoming summit and also in holding a conference on Ukraine’s 10-point peace plan on Sunday, prior to the start of the World Economic Forum in Davos on Monday. Over 80 countries participated in Sunday’s convention.

China was absent from the talks.

During the news conference, Zelenskyy also urged China, a Russian ally and global power player, to participate and help resolve the conflict with Russia.

"We would very much like China to be involved in our [peace] formula, as well as in the summit," he said. "But not everything depends on our wishes."

Zelenskyy did not provide an extensive list of the participants but said, "We are open to all countries that respect our sovereignty and territorial integrity at the peace summit.”

Zelenskyy also extended the invitation to countries from the Global South, some of which maintain diplomatic relations with Russia.

"We would like the Global South to be present. ... It is important for us to show that the whole world is against Russia's aggression, and the whole world is for a just peace," he said.

Russia, which is absent from the World Economic Forum being held in the Swiss resort of Davos this week, refuses to heed to Ukraine’s peace proposal.

“Without our participation, any discussions are devoid of any prospect of any results," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Monday when asked about the discussions on Ukraine in Davos.“This is simply talking for the sake of talking," he added.

Peskov said Moscow will continue its military operation in Ukraine until it achieves all its goals.

Ukraine said it will not rest until every Russian soldier leaves its territory. Zelenskyy has decreed that any talks with Russia are illegal.

The Ukrainian president said that Russia’s leaders “believe that with their violence and terror, they can enforce some other kind of order, a predatory one, without any rules or security guarantees.”

The Kremlin casts the war in Ukraine as part of a much broader global struggle with the West, which it believes aims to split Russia apart and steal its resources. The West denies it wants to destroy Russia.

North Korean visit to Russia

Meanwhile, North Korea's foreign minister is on a three-day visit to Russia, as international concern grows over an alleged arms cooperation deal between the two countries.

A delegation led by Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui arrived in Moscow on Sunday, according to North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency. She will meet with her Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, on Tuesday, Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said.

Choe is visiting at Lavrov's invitation, the ministry said.

The United States and South Korea say North Korea has provided Russia with arms, including artillery and missiles, to help its fight in Ukraine.

The Biden administration said it has evidence that North Korea provided Russia with missiles that have been used in Ukraine. In a joint statement last week, the U.S., South Korea and their partners said North Korea supplied missiles to Russia’s war in exchange for valuable technical and military know-how from Russia.

War in Ukraine

The Ukrainian air force said Monday it shot down a Russian Beriev A-50 surveillance plane and an Ilyushin Il-22 airborne command post in the Sea of Azov area.

These spy planes relay information to ground troops and help orchestrate Russian battlefield movements in Ukraine. Shooting them down, if confirmed, would be a landmark feat for Ukraine in its defensive war against Russia, as fighting along the front line is largely bogged down in trench and artillery warfare.

General Valeryi Zaluzhnyi, commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian armed forces, didn't disclose how the two aircraft were downed. Ukraine has received sophisticated air defense systems from its Western allies.

Zaluzhnyi also did not say where the interceptions occurred, although he attached a video to his social media post with an airplane tracker showing two targets disappearing above the Azov Sea, which lies between Ukraine and Russia, north of the Crimean Peninsula and the Black Sea.

Reuters was unable to verify his statement independently.

There was no immediate official comment from Moscow. Russian war bloggers said both planes had come under friendly fire, but they presented no evidence of that. They claimed the Il-22 was damaged but made a successful landing.

The A-50, which was outfitted with radar, typically carries a crew of 15.

The Russian defense ministry said early last year that the modernized A-50 had been carrying out missions during the war and can detect more than 300 targets simultaneously, as well as detect and track a missile launch at a distance of 800 kilometers and ground and sea targets at 300 kilometers.

The Ukrainian defense ministry valued the A-50 at $330 million. The Russian air force reportedly has been operating a fleet of nine such aircraft.

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