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Exclusive | Ukraine peace summit is a ‘success’, China key to ending war: ambassador to Singapore

WorldExclusive | Ukraine peace summit is a ‘success’, China key to ending war: ambassador to Singapore

The ambassador also stressed that her country “does not and has never seen China as its opponent”, but instead, wants to see Beijing as “its friend”, in response to a question about whether China had a hand in exerting Russian influence in Southeast Asia and if that deterred some regional countries from attending the summit.

Ukraine would consider participating in a Beijing-led peace summit with both warring sides present, so long as talks are based on the “rules and principles enshrined in the UN Charter [and] international law”, Zelenko said.
A Ukrainian firefighter intervenes to extinguish a fire at a hardware store following a Russian strike in Kharkiv, on May 25. Photo: AFP

Following the summit, China partnered with Brazil to propose an alternative peace process that included the participation of Russia and Ukraine.

Observers said previously the summit was intended to be “pro-Ukraine and not pro-Russia” and that some Asian states attended the event over fears of “missing the boat”.
Former Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen said his country’s decision not to attend the summit was in no way due to Chinese influence. In a Facebook post, the current president of the Cambodian Senate added that participation by countries at the event was “their right to decide”.

At the Shangri-La Dialogue on May 31 to June 2, Zelensky said: “We need the support of Asian countries. It is much needed … We want Asia to know what is going on in Ukraine, Asia to support the end of the war. We want Asian leaders to attend the peace summit.”

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky meets Singapore Prime Minister Lawrence Wong on June 2. Zelensky is in Singapore to attend the Shangri-La Dialogue. Photo: EPA-EFE

He added that he would judge the success of his surprise stop in Singapore on the “presence of representatives from Asia” at the summit in Switzerland. This marked his second visit to Asia since the start of the invasion in 2022.

Only three of Zelensky’s 10-point peace plan – nuclear security, food security and the return of prisoners of war and children abducted from Ukraine – were included in the summit’s final communique.

The Russian embassy in Singapore later slammed Zelensky’s visit to the Shangri-La Dialogue, describing it as a “bizarre” attempt to persuade the Global South to join the summit. The Kremlin has dismissed the summit’s “close to zero” outcome after it was held, saying such peace talks were futile without Russia’s involvement.

Zelenko on Wednesday said Ukraine was “grateful” for the participation of Asian countries in the summit, noting it was the first time that many attended such an event.

She urged the region not to “miss the broader picture” of the war in Ukraine, as a failure to resolve the conflict would come at a great price for the “weakest” states.

“It’s always the weakest who pay the ultimate price – the price of gold, the price of lack of some products on shelves, and many other things,” she said. “Many countries in Asia know how high the price of freedom is, and it is better to take leadership and to go for it than pay the price of doing nothing.”

Making peace is never easy, it comes at a price but the price of doing nothing is higher

Kateryna Zelenko, Ukraine’s ambassador to Singapore

“Making peace is never easy, it comes at a price, but the price of doing nothing is higher.”

Zelenko said there was room for deeper cooperation between Ukraine and Southeast Asia and hoped to see more involvement by people from the region in her country, including in post-war rebuilding projects.

“This full-scale war has brought so many true friends to Ukraine from this part of the world. We have seen so many unbelievable people who, when the war started, just went to the Polish border trying to accommodate refugees, to cook warm food for them, to look for warm clothes for children,” she said.

On Singapore’s response to the war, Zelenko praised the city state’s strong stance against Moscow since the early days of the Russian invasion in 2022.

“Singapore is a country that respects the territorial integrity of states, their political independence and their sovereignty. The clear response from Singapore’s side was a strong message delivered from the very beginning.”

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and China’s President Xi Jinping at a welcoming ceremony in Beijing. Ukraine’s ambassador to Singapore Kateryna Zelenko calls on China to play a key role in ending the war in Ukraine. Photo: AFP

Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Sim Ann attended the summit, where she reiterated Singapore’s commitment to international law and support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

In March 2022, Singapore imposed export controls on items that could be used as weapons in the Ukraine war and ordered financial institutions not to deal with a list of Russian entities.

Then-prime minister Lee Hsien Loong and other top officials have said that it was imperative for a small state like Singapore to stand up for principles that underpin its sovereignty and political independence.

While the recent summit was a hopeful step for Ukraine, Zelenko said there was still a long road ahead before the end of the war.

“The summit was kicking off the process of finding the ways for lasting peace in Ukraine. This is just the beginning. The work will follow with special groups and advisers and ministers devoted to different elements of the peace formula,” she said.

“We cannot address one issue without another, we cannot only focus on the release of prisoners of war without the withdrawal of troops, but all these elements will be discussed in the coming months.”

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