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Switzerland is hosting a summit organized by Ukraine in the hope of peace talks


Switzerland is hosting a two-day summit, organized by Ukraine, that hopes to set the framework for future peace talks. But Russia isn't invited, and its ally, China, is not sending a representative, so Ukrainian leaders are counting on support from those planning to attend, the leaders of more than 90 countries, including the U.S. For more, we turn to NPR's Ukraine correspondent Joanna Kakissis, who is in western Ukraine. Good morning, Joanna.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Good morning, Danielle.

KURTZLEBEN: So what is Ukraine hoping will come out of the summit?

KAKISSIS: So Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wants leverage for future peace negotiations. And to get that leverage, Zelenskyy must convince as many countries as possible to back Ukraine's plan for peace. Now, this plan has 10 conditions, including the withdrawal of all Russian forces from Ukrainian territory and the prosecution of Russia for war crimes.

But this weekend Ukraine is focusing on points that have the most global consensus - things like food security, nuclear safety and the return of thousands of Ukrainian children deported to Russia from occupied territories.

This summit does come at a time when Zelenskyy can point to some diplomatic wins. The U.S. and Ukraine just signed an important 10-year bilateral security agreement on the sidelines of the G7 on Thursday. And at the G7, Ukraine was also promised a loan of about $50 billion. This loan will be securitized through the use of profits from interest on Russian assets that were frozen by Western nations.

KURTZLEBEN: Well, now, as we mentioned, Russia was not invited to this summit. So how is the Kremlin reacting to all this?

KAKISSIS: Well, the Kremlin has dismissed Ukraine's summit as pointless. And on Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin offered his own terms for peace. He wants Ukraine to give up four regions partially occupied by Russia and to drop its NATO bid. Of course, Ukraine immediately rejected this offer. Zelenskyy told an Italian television network that Putin looks weak.


PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY: (Through interpreter) He understands that most of the world is on the side of Ukraine, on the side of life.

KAKISSIS: Zelenskyy wants Ukraine to look strong, and so he's pressed world leaders to attend this summit in person. The leaders of European powers like France, Germany and Britain will be there, but Zelenskyy was disappointed that President Biden sent Vice President Kamala Harris instead.

KURTZLEBEN: Now, in addition, China will not be attending this summit, as we mentioned. What does it look like for Ukraine to set a foundation for peace without China and countries like India, which have remained neutral?

KAKISSIS: Yes, Danielle, indeed, Ukraine needs China, a global powerhouse that uses Russian oil and supplies goods to Russia's manufacturing base. Earlier this month, Zelenskyy even accused China of pressuring countries to avoid the summit. But Southeast Asian nations, like the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand - they will be attending. Meanwhile, India is sending a representative, and another neutral country, Brazil, is attending as an observer.

KURTZLEBEN: Now, you are in Ukraine right now. What's the mood there as this conference unfolds?

KAKISSIS: Well, you know, the war is well into its third year, and Ukrainians are downbeat. I'm in western Ukraine right now, where draft-age men try to cross a river into Romania to escape conscription into the military. And locals here told me they're losing faith in the government and in the West. And in eastern Ukraine, on the front line, it's a grinding battle for both sides, though Russia is making incremental gains.

KURTZLEBEN: That's NPR's Joanna Kakissis in western Ukraine. Thank you, Joanna.

KAKISSIS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Joanna Kakissis is a foreign correspondent based in Kyiv, Ukraine, where she reports poignant stories of a conflict that has upended millions of lives, affected global energy and food supplies and pitted NATO against Russia.
Danielle Kurtzleben is a political correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on The NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.