President Volodymyr Zelensky arrives in Switzerland on June 14, 2024 for a peace summit without Russia. (Presidency of Ukraine)

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared this Friday (14) that Russia would accept a ceasefire and enter into peace negotiations, as long as Ukraine abandoned its ambitions to join NATO, the military alliance of European countries, and withdraw its forces from the four Ukrainian regions claimed by Moscow. Putin stated that Russia is willing to guarantee the safe withdrawal of Ukrainian units to facilitate this process.

Putin made these statements on the eve of a summit in Switzerland, where more than 90 countries and organizations are expected to discuss a possible path to peace in Ukraine. Russia was not invited to the event and described the meeting as a “waste of time”. In fact, Russia’s absence is confirmation of European unwillingness to negotiate with Putin, which prolongs the conflict. China does not participate, nor does the Brazilian president, who sent the ambassador to Bern.

Divergent positions

Russia controls almost a fifth of Ukrainian territory in the third year of the war. Meanwhile, Ukraine insists that peace will only be possible with the full withdrawal of Russian forces and the restoration of its territorial integrity. With its infrastructure destroyed, Ukraine only sustains the war through shipments of weapons and resources from allies such as the USA and Europe, which have interests against Russia.

After Putin’s speech, Ukraine categorically rejected the ceasefire conditions, considering them “absurd” and accusing the Russian leader of trying to deceive the international community and undermine genuine peace efforts. Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry described the proposal as “manipulative statements aimed at deceiving the international community and undermining diplomatic efforts to achieve a just peace.”

Mykhailo Podolyak, a Ukrainian presidential adviser, told Reuters there was “no possibility of finding an agreement” given the conditions put forward by Putin. “He is offering Ukraine to admit defeat. He is offering Ukraine to legally hand over its territories to Russia. He is offering Ukraine to sign away its geopolitical sovereignty,” Podolyak said.

In fact, Putin’s conditions are the same as at the beginning of the occupation of Ukraine. However, the terms did not evolve in favor of Ukraine due to the total lack of willingness for dialogue, despite the efforts of several countries to resolve the impasse, including Brazil. Ukraine also maintains its terms of becoming a NATO base, on the borders with Russia, the first driver of the conflict. But it also wants to maintain its territorial integrity, as well as retake Crimea.

Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky, speaking to Italy’s SkyTG24 news channel, compared Putin’s demands to Adolf Hitler’s expansionist tactics before World War II. “It’s the same thing Hitler used to do. (…) That is why we should not trust these messages,” said Zelensky, highlighting that Putin would not cease his military offensive, even if his demands were met.

Nazi comparisons come from both sides and end up being deflated as the conflict drags on. From the beginning, Putin accuses the territories of eastern Ukraine of being militarized by neo-Nazi groups that have been persecuting Russian citizens for years. Complaints of violence against trade unionists, left-wing politicians and discrimination against Russians were accumulating and were used by Putin to advance on these territories.

Summit in Switzerland for peace

Zelensky arrived in Switzerland this Friday to participate in the peace summit in Ukraine, which will take place this weekend with the presence of dozens of world leaders. Zelensky hopes to win international support for his plan to end the war triggered by the Russian invasion in February 2022.

“There will be two days of active work with countries from all regions of the world, with different nations that, however, are united by the common goal of bringing a just and lasting peace to Ukraine,” wrote Zelensky on the social network X.

The event, which will be held in Burgenstock, in the canton of Lucerne, will be attended by around one hundred delegations, including 57 heads of state and government. Discussions will focus on issues of nuclear safety, food security and the return of Ukrainian prisoners of war and children taken to territory under Russian control.

In recent weeks, Zelensky has undertaken a series of diplomatic trips to secure the support of the international community ahead of the summit. He visited Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the Philippines and Singapore seeking support.

Russia was excluded from the summit in Switzerland, and Moscow’s ally China will also not participate. Many countries see the summit as merely formal in nature, which serves more to try to convince doubtful countries to support Ukraine and collaborate in the war effort against Russia.

Brazilian representation

Only on the eve of the event did the government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva decide who will represent Brazil at the peace summit. The Brazilian ambassador in Bern, Cláudia Fonseca Buzzi, was chosen to participate in the meeting as an observer. The information that Cláudia Fonseca will be the Brazilian representative came from the Swiss government, which released this Friday (14) the list of participating states.

There was an expectation that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mauro Vieira, would go to Switzerland for the meeting. Brasília, however, decided not to send representatives from the first level of the Lula government to the meeting.

Lula had previously declared that he would not consider participating in peace negotiations that did not involve both sides of the conflict. This stance was reiterated during a bilateral meeting with the president of Switzerland, Viola Amherd, last Thursday (13), and has been maintained since the beginning of the conflict. All of Lula’s efforts, both in the Presidency of the UN Security Council and in the G20, have been to try to bring the two conflicting parties to the same table.

“The president congratulated Switzerland for organizing the Conference, but reiterated Brazil’s position, that a solution to the crisis would require the participation of representatives from both sides of the conflict. And he reiterated Brazil’s interest in participating and helping to facilitate peace discussions between the two parties,” Planalto said in a statement.


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