90 countries, groups to attend Ukraine peace conference

Switzerland said Monday 90 countries and organizations will attend the two-day Ukraine peace conference it is hosting beginning Saturday.

The Swiss government said that about half of the countries are from Europe and that broad global participation is important to launching a process with broad support.

A government statement said the peace conference aims to be a platform for discussing ways to achieve a “comprehensive, just and lasting peace for Ukraine based on international law and the U.N. charter,” as well as working on a framework for carrying out a peace plan and how to involve Russia and Ukraine in a peace process.

Switzerland is hosting the conference at the request of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, but Russia is not participating.

Russia has criticized the process and said it would engage in peace talks only if they take into account the situation on the ground, including Russia’s battlefield gains since launching its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Zelenskyy has demanded Russia withdraw from all Ukrainian territory.

Kharkiv fighting

Russia’s advance on Kharkiv “has stalled” after the United States partially allowed Ukraine to use U.S.-provided weapons to strike targets inside Russia, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Sunday.

“Kharkiv is still under threat, but Russians have not been able to make material progress on the ground in recent days in that area,” Sullivan said during an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Ukrainian flags flutter over hundreds graves of Ukrainian servicemen killed in fighting since the Russian invasion, in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on June 6, 2024.

Ukrainian flags flutter over hundreds graves of Ukrainian servicemen killed in fighting since the Russian invasion, in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on June 6, 2024.

Sullivan said the United States allowed Ukraine to use of some U.S.-provided weapons to defend its Kharkiv region, on the border with Russia, despite previous concerns that such strikes could drag the NATO military alliance into a direct conflict with Russia.

“From the president’s perspective, this was common sense,” Sullivan said, pointing out that Ukrainians should be able to fire at Russian encampments and weaponry fired at them.

NATO allies such as France and Germany have followed Washington’s example allowing Ukraine to use some of its Western-provided weapons for attacks across the border from Kharkiv into Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned the United States and NATO allies that such a move could prompt him to place similar Russian weapons in countries within range of the U.S. or its European allies.

Frozen Russian assets

During a state visit to France, U.S. President Joe Biden said Sunday that he and French counterpart Emmanuel Macron agreed on using profits from $280 billion in frozen Russian assets to help Ukraine’s war effort against Russian aggression.

The idea is to use this profit as a steady revenue stream to service a large loan of $50 billion toward Ukraine’s defense and infrastructure.

Some countries have expressed misgivings about tapping profits from the frozen Russian assets, but a U.S. Treasury official said Tuesday that the United States and its partners in the G7, the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations, were making progress.

Russia says any diversion of the profits from its frozen funds would amount to theft.

The Russian frozen funds generate $2.7 billion to $3.8 billion a year in profit, which the European Union says is not contractually owed to Russia and therefore represents a windfall.

U.S. officials expect the G7 wealthy democracies to send a tough new warning this week to smaller Chinese banks to stop assisting Russia in evading Western sanctions, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Negotiations were still ongoing about the exact format and content of the warning, according to the people, who declined to be named discussing ongoing diplomatic engagements.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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