World

UKRAINE UPDATE: 11 JUNE 2024

Kyiv draws 45 leaders to Swiss peace summit; Czechs accuse Russia of organising Prague arson attack

Kyiv draws 45 leaders to Swiss peace summit; Czechs accuse Russia of organising Prague arson attack
Swiss Federal Councillor Viola Amherd (left) and Swiss Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis attend a media conference on the upcoming peace conference, in Bern, Switzerland, on 10 June. (Photo: Peter Schneider / EPA-EFE)

Some 90 countries will attend a Ukraine summit this weekend, Swiss officials said on Monday, but key countries from the so-called Global South have still to confirm their attendance. About half of the participating countries would be represented at the level of heads of state or government, Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis said.

The Czech Republic accused Russia of organising and financing a failed arson attack by a foreigner who tried to set public buses on fire in Prague last week.

Ukraine’s top official tasked with reconstruction abruptly resigned and accused the government of hindering his efforts after the nation’s premier blocked his request to attend a conference in Berlin.

Ukraine push for support draws 45 leaders to Swiss summit

Some 90 countries will attend a Ukraine summit this weekend, Swiss officials said on Monday, but key countries from the so-called Global South have still to confirm their attendance.

“The list of participants is fluid until the last day,” Swiss President Viola Amherd told journalists on Monday in Bern. About half of the participating countries would be represented at the level of heads of state or government, Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis added. A final list of participants will be published on Friday evening.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky originally asked Switzerland to organise the talks to drum up support — particularly from countries beyond Ukraine’s traditional allies in the West — for a broad set of demands that included the full withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine.

But the 15-16 June gathering in Lucerne, Switzerland, appears set to fall short of those ambitions. China declined to attend over the Swiss refusal to invite Russia, and Brazil and South Africa have yet to confirm, Cassis said. While India will be present, it seems unlikely that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will personally attend. Turkey, which brokered initial talks between Ukraine and Russia shortly after the start of the invasion, will also be present.

The conference will focus on a narrow set of goals including nuclear safety, food security, freedom of navigation and humanitarian issues, the government said in a statement, confirming an earlier report by Bloomberg.

The conference should be seen as the first step in a peace process in which Russia should be included eventually, Foreign Minister Cassis said. He added that it was still being discussed what country would lead the next phase of the talks and organize a follow-up conference.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov thanked his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, on Monday for Beijing’s decision not to attend the Swiss summit. The meeting “does not provide for Russia’s equitable participation”, Lavrov told Wang on the sidelines of a conference of BRICS foreign ministers in Russia’s Nizhny Novgorod, according to a statement by the Foreign Ministry in Moscow.

Read more on the Swiss conference on Ukraine:

Czechs blame Russia for backing failed arson attack in Prague

The Czech Republic accused Russia of organising and financing a failed arson attack by a foreigner who tried to set public buses on fire in Prague last week.

Speaking in a televised briefing after a meeting of the country’s security council, Prime Minister Petr Fiala said authorities in several European Union nations had in recent weeks uncovered information that Russian intelligence services may be planning various sabotage actions across the bloc.

“There is a suspicion that the attack was organised and financed most likely from Russia,” he said. “It’s part of a hybrid war that Russia is waging on us, against which we have to defend ourselves and which we have to stop.”

Czech police detained a man of South American origin after he unsuccessfully attempted to start a fire in a garage owned by the Prague city transport company, the CTK newswire reported on Monday.

A court ordered that the man, whose identity wasn’t released, remain in custody, according to police chief Martin Vondrasek. He may face as long as life in prison for an attempted terrorist act, he said.

In March, Czech counter-intelligence services said they uncovered a Russian network trying to influence politics and public opinion across the continent, including by making payments to European politicians through a Prague-based website, Voice of Europe.

Ukraine recovery official abruptly resigns amid infighting

Ukraine’s top official tasked with reconstruction abruptly resigned and accused the government of hindering his efforts after the nation’s premier blocked his request to attend a conference in Berlin.

Mustafa Nayyem, who headed the State Infrastructure and Reconstruction Development Agency, complained of “systemic hindering” of his work in a statement posted on Facebook on Monday.

“Starting from November last year, the team of the agency faced constant opposition, resistance and the creation of artificial obstacles,” Nayyem said.

The infighting within Zelensky’s administration comes a month after parliament removed his infrastructure minister, who hasn’t been replaced. It took place at a delicate moment as the Ukrainian leader, who is expected to open the Berlin gathering this week, seeks to secure international support in fending off a renewed Russian offensive.

Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal rejected Nayyem’s request to make the Berlin trip and instead ordered him to prepare a report on the progress of defence construction around critical infrastructure and energy facilities, according to a copy of the 7 June letter seen by Bloomberg.

The 11-12 June Ukraine Recovery Conference in the German capital is aimed at pooling efforts from Ukraine’s allies for postwar reconstruction. Zelensky will lead a delegation of more than 20 Ukrainian officials, including five cabinet members, and meet with leaders including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

The World Bank in February estimated that the country needed at least $486-billion to rebuild — before Russia stepped up widespread attacks on energy infrastructure — while the European Investment Bank puts the cost at more than $1-trillion.

In his statement, Nayyem complained that crucial budget financing for repairing infrastructure had been scrapped, work had been slowed by bureaucracy and his efforts had become “impossible” since the removal of Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov last month.

Putin set for rare visits to security partners North Korea and Vietnam

Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to visit North Korea and Vietnam soon, taking rare trips to Moscow’s traditional security partners as he seeks help for his grinding war on Ukraine.

Vedomosti reported on Monday on these two trips that it said would take place in the coming weeks, citing a diplomat it did not identify. The Russian newspaper did not give firm dates for the visits. It also cited Russia’s ambassador to North Korea, Alexander Matsegora, as saying the trip was being “actively prepared.”

Putin’s trip to North Korea would be his first since July 2000. It is set to stoke concerns from the US and its allies of arms transfers that have helped the Kremlin in its assault on Ukraine in exchange for aid propping up Kim Jong-un’s regime.

The timing of the visit could be crucial for Putin. With Kyiv now taking delivery of billions of dollars in fresh arms from its US and European allies, the window for a Russian breakthrough is narrowing even as it continues to fire missiles and drones at Ukrainian cities including energy infrastructure.

The US, South Korea and others have accused North Korea of sending massive amounts of artillery shells to Putin as well as Pyongyang’s newest family of short-range nuclear-capable ballistic missiles that are easy to hide and quick to deploy.

The value of the artillery alone is likely several billion dollars and the aid from Russia could represent the biggest boost to North Korea’s economy since Kim took power about a dozen years ago.

The stakes will probably be lower for a Putin visit to Vietnam. He last went there in 2017, when the nation hosted the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in the coastal city of Danang.

Vietnam and Russia have ties going back decades to the Soviet Union. Moscow was a major supplier of military aid to Vietnam during its war with the US. The Southeast Asian nation has since relied on Russia for military weapons, including aircraft and Kilo-class, diesel-powered submarines.

Europe in talks to keep Russia-Ukraine gas pipeline flowing

European officials were in talks to keep gas flowing through a key Russia-Ukraine pipeline, as they raced to prevent Moscow’s war from further damaging the continent’s energy supplies.

Europe has tried to wean itself off Russian gas but several eastern European states continue to receive it through a pipeline that crosses Ukraine. The agreement that covers this transit arrangement expires at the end of this year. And with war raging, most market watchers expect the gas to finally come to a halt.

But European government and company officials are talking to counterparts in Ukraine about how to keep the gas flowing next year, according to people familiar with the matter who declined to be named as the talks are private.

One option that’s been discussed is for European companies to buy and inject gas from Azerbaijan into Russian pipelines heading to Europe, according to some of the people. Such an arrangement would allow Europe to avoid the embarrassment of buying Russian gas at a time when it’s trying to crimp Moscow’s revenues.

The idea is gaining momentum as it becomes clear that Ukraine would be in favour. Transit revenue amounted to about $1-billion in 2021 — providing crucial funding for the war-ravaged economy. There are also concerns that disused pipelines could become military targets, or fall into disrepair that’s costly to reverse.

Russian military plane suspected of violating Finnish airspace

Finland said that a Russian military aircraft violated its airspace on Monday in the first such move since the Nordic country joined the Nato alliance last year.

The plane flew in Finland’s airspace for about two minutes on Monday morning, the Defence Ministry said. The incident happened in the eastern part of the Gulf of Finland, with the aircraft reaching as deep as 2.5km into Finland’s territory.

“We take the suspected territorial violation seriously and have immediately launched an investigation,” Defence Minister Antti Hakkanen said. DM

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.7% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.3% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.3% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country.

Be part of that 0.3%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

MavericKids vol 3

How can a child learn to read if they don't have a book?

81% of South African children aged 10 can't read for meaning. You can help by pre-ordering a copy of MavericKids.

For every copy sold we will donate a copy to Gift of The Givers for children in need of reading support.