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UKRAINE UPDATE: 5 JUNE 2024

China claims its peace plan has backing; Swiss forum opens door for future talks with Russia

China claims its peace plan has backing; Swiss forum opens door for future talks with Russia
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. (Photo: Wang Zhao-Pool / Getty Images)

China’s top diplomat said more than two dozen countries had expressed backing for Beijing’s vision to resolve the Russia-Ukraine conflict, days after China indicated it would skip an upcoming peace summit in Switzerland.

A Swiss-hosted summit on Ukraine will aim to carve a path to involving Russian officials in future talks after establishing agreement on nuclear safety, food security and returning abducted children, a draft document shows. 

Ukraine said it was imposing more rationing of electricity supplies in the aftermath of Russian strikes on the energy sector that also affected imports from the European Union. 

China says its Ukraine plan has backing after summit snub

China’s top diplomat said more than two dozen countries had expressed backing for Beijing’s vision to resolve the Russia-Ukraine conflict, days after China indicated it would skip an upcoming peace summit in Switzerland.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters on Tuesday that Russia and Ukraine had separately “affirmed most of the content” of the principles for a political solution laid out by China and Brazil in a joint statement last month.

He didn’t specifically address Ukraine’s core demand that Russia withdraw from all of its territory annexed since 2014 before any negotiations can start. In addition, the warring countries’ presidents have refused to negotiate with each other.

The document called for an international conference recognised by both Russia and Ukraine — an alternative to Kyiv’s peace plan which is backed by Western nations and due to be discussed at the Swiss gathering this month. Russia has not been invited.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Beijing last weekend of working with Moscow to undermine the talks after China signalled it would not participate. 

Wang said 26 nations had agreed to join — or were seeking ways to join — in the “common understandings” that China and Brazil had reached. He said a total of 45 countries had given “positive feedback” to the ideas, according to the foreign ministry.

Read more: Brazil, China seek rival Ukraine peace forum, aiding Russia

Visiting Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan also “welcomed and commended” Beijing’s plans after the two met on Tuesday, Wang said. Turkey hosted the last direct Russia-Ukraine talks in April 2022.

Ukraine summit ‘opens door’ to limited future talks with Russia

A Swiss-hosted summit on Ukraine will aim to carve a path to involving Russian officials in future talks after establishing agreement on nuclear safety, food security and returning abducted children, a draft document shows. 

The 15-16 June gathering in Lucerne, Switzerland, will focus on the three measures as a way to build trust to later engage with Moscow on a limited number of issues, according to a draft document seen by Bloomberg. 

Although Russian officials have been excluded from the Kyiv-led format, the document says that an end to the war must involve all parties. 

“We, therefore, agreed to undertake concrete steps which can serve as confidence-building measures in the above-mentioned areas with further engagement of the representatives of the Russian Federation,” the document, which is subject to change in negotiations, says. 

Before opening talks with Moscow, Zelensky had aimed to secure consensus from countries — particularly those of the so-called Global South — for a broader set of demands that included the full withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine.

But the aims of the Swiss summit, a culmination of rounds of talks by senior diplomats and national security advisers from dozens of nations, have narrowed from Ukraine’s 10-point blueprint in an effort to secure the participation of as many leaders as possible. 

Ukraine and its allies have struggled to win full backing for the process, above all from China, which has indicated it will not attend the meeting.  

The extent of the participation from other key nations, such as India, Brazil, South Africa and Saudi Arabia, remains unclear.  

Still, more than 100 countries and 75 heads of state have confirmed they will attend, according to the Ukrainian leader. Most Group of Seven leaders will attend, but not US President Joe Biden. Vice President Kamala Harris will make the trip, the White House said Monday. Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, will join her.  

Ukraine faces more electricity rationing after Russian strikes

Ukraine said it was imposing more rationing of electricity supplies in the aftermath of Russian strikes on the energy sector that also affected imports from the European Union. 

Kremlin forces unleashed the largest missile and drone assault in more than three weeks against critical infrastructure on Saturday, targeting facilities across Ukraine. The attacks caused technical difficulties that limited the volumes of electricity that Ukraine can import from EU neighbours, national grid operator Ukrenergo said Tuesday.

Power supply was restricted for all Ukrainian regions and distributors were switching off consumers, including households and businesses, for periods that last several hours and may occur several times a day. Gasoline and diesel-fuelled generators have returned to streets in Kyiv to help mitigate the shortage.

“The situation is very difficult,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal told a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, according to the government’s website.  

Around 80% of thermal electricity generation has been destroyed by Russia since the beginning of the invasion in 2022. Power imports from the EU are expected to be down by 12% versus Monday’s level, Energy Ministry data show. 

Putin floods EU with fake news on Telegram, says bloc

Vladimir Putin and “other hostile actors” were able to abuse a lack of regulation for the Telegram platform to spread fake news in the European Union’s eastern nations, a top EU commissioner warned. 

“Telegram is an issue,” Vera Jourova, European Commission vice-president for values and transparency, told Bloomberg TV. She said the service “is especially active in the eastern member states where we have a Russian-speaking minority”.

She said Telegram was a “special case” because it claims to have only 42 million users in the bloc — below the 45 million threshold needed to be scrutinised under its new Digital Services Act — which places guardrails on the spread of harmful and illegal material online. 

Read more: Too small to police, too big to ignore: Telegram divides EU

“We are now checking whether the figure is right and in case we discover that this is more than 42 million, we will have to look deeply into how Telegram works,” she said.

Telegram is owned by a Russian who left the country a decade ago.

Telegram is often used by pro-Kremlin accounts to spread disinformation regarding issues ranging from the war in Ukraine to immigration and climate change. More recently, Russian intelligence officers have used it to recruit petty criminals to carry out acts of sabotage across European capitals.

Trump’s persecution claims get boost from Russia, China

After Donald Trump’s felony conviction last week, commentators in China and Russia wasted little time in trumpeting the failure of US democracy. 

Chinese social media users reacted with bemusement, urging Trump supporters to again storm the US Capitol and warning of a civil war. State-run CCTV called the upcoming election a “farce”. Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov said “the entire world” could see Trump was being persecuted “by all possible lawful and unlawful means”. 

Of course, Russia and China have long blasted the US system. But this time, their claims echoed those of Republican legislators following last week’s criminal trial that found Trump guilty of all 34 counts of falsifying business records to conceal a hush-money payment to a porn star. Even high-ranking legislators from Trump’s party described the process as “weaponisation of our justice system,” and in some cases vowed to turn judicial scrutiny on Democrats. 

The global fallout from Trump’s guilty verdict just months before he contests the next presidential election will test the US’s already battered efforts to position itself as a beacon for democracy with illiberalism on the rise. 

While the conviction of a former — and possibly future — president is unprecedented in the US, other democracies like Brazil, Israel, South Korea, Italy and France have put their own former leaders on trial. DM

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