Zelensky Invites Russia to Next Peace Summit, Hints at Possible New Kremlin Leadership

Feature and Cover Zelensky Invites Russia to Next Peace Summit Hints at Possible New Kremlin Leadership

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has extended an invitation to Russia for the next peace summit, despite earlier asserting that Russia could only participate if it surrendered Ukrainian territory.

Initially, Zelensky excluded Russia from the first peace summit held in Switzerland last month, a move that sparked discontent among some officials who argued that achieving peace would be impossible without both warring parties present.

However, on Wednesday, Zelensky seemed to adopt a more flexible approach, acknowledging the potential for Russian involvement in the future. “If the second peace summit has a plan to end the war, and we have more countries, we will organise it and Russian representatives must be present. Who? We will see,” he told Bloomberg News.

When asked about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s possible attendance, Zelensky remarked, “I’m not sure, I think he is afraid to leave Russia. Is it possible that somebody else besides Putin comes? Maybe by this time, there will be somebody else in the Kremlin, then we will talk to somebody else.”

The first Ukrainian-organised peace summit received widespread criticism from analysts, who viewed it as a Western effort to display solidarity with Ukraine rather than a genuine attempt to end the war.

Ahead of the Swiss summit, the Kremlin and its key ally, China, exerted significant diplomatic pressure on countries in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East to boycott the event. The summit concluded with a vague commitment to a follow-up meeting but lacked any concrete outcomes.

In his Bloomberg interview, Zelensky also rejected Putin’s ceasefire proposal, which he had previously labeled a trap. Nevertheless, he proposed that the US and China could serve as intermediaries. “There are many questions between the two but if we want to end this war fairly, for Ukraine and for the whole world, they have to find a stance to stop Putin,” he stated.

Western intelligence sources revealed this week that Chinese factories are manufacturing drones for Russia. China’s influence over Russia has surged since Putin’s comprehensive invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Finnish President Alexander Stubb suggested that Beijing could end the conflict with “one phone call” threatening to withdraw economic and diplomatic support.

Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping have been convening in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, at a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), an economic-military alliance they spearhead. During the summit, Xi emphasized the need for SCO member states to support each other, though he stopped short of advocating for a military alliance. “We should join hands to resist external interference, firmly support each other, take care of each other’s concerns,” he said.

Established in 2001, the SCO initially concentrated on former Soviet Central Asia but has since broadened its scope. On Thursday, Belarus joined the group, which already includes Iran, India, and Pakistan.

Temur Umarov, a Fellow at the Carnegie Centre think tank, noted that the SCO’s primary significance lies in providing a platform for leaders to meet away from Western influence rather than serving as an anti-West alliance. “Russia is trying to use it to gain support for its aggression in Ukraine but it doesn’t have the sympathies of all SCO members,” he commented. “Everybody else wants to remain neutral.”

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