Now is the time to press Russia for peace, Zelensky tells G-20 leaders

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky visiting Kherson, Ukraine, on Nov 14, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

KHERSON, Ukraine – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday urged world leaders to back a plan to end the war in his country, saying now was the time to push for peace after Russia’s defeat in the southern city of Kherson.

At the same time, he said Ukraine would not allow Russian forces to regroup after their withdrawal from Kherson, and said there would be more fighting until Ukraine reclaims control of all of its occupied territory.

Mr Zelensky made his remarks in a speech to a Group of 20 (G-20) summit in Indonesia, where Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a key focus of discussion among leaders of the world’s major economies.

A day earlier, he shook hands with soldiers and waved to civilians during a visit to Kherson, where he said Ukraine had gathered evidence of at least 400 war crimes committed by Russian troops including killings and abductions.

“I am convinced now is the time when the Russian destructive war must and can be stopped,” he said via video link to the summit on the island of Bali, according to a copy of his speech reviewed by Reuters.

He called for Russia to withdraw all its forces from Ukraine and reaffirm Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and said Kyiv would not compromise its sovereignty, territory or independence. He also called for all Ukrainian prisoners to be released.

“Please choose your path for leadership – and together we will surely implement the peace formula,” he said.

Kyiv also welcomed Chinese comments criticising threats to use nuclear weapons, after United States President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping met on Monday.

The two leaders “underscored their opposition to the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine”, the White House said in a readout of the meeting in Indonesia on the eve of the G-20 summit.

A readout of the Biden-Xi meeting on China’s foreign ministry website made no use of the word “nuclear” but said: “Conflicts and wars produce no winner and confrontation between major countries must be avoided.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly suggested Russia could use nuclear weapons to defend its territorial integrity, interpreted in the West as an implicit threat to use them over lands Moscow claims to have annexed in Ukraine.

Mr Xi and Mr Putin have grown close in recent years, bound by their shared distrust of the West, and China has refrained from publicly criticising Russia for the invasion.

Mr Zelensky welcomed Monday’s remarks, saying in an address late Monday: “Everyone understands to whom these words are addressed.”

America expects the G-20 to condemn Russia’s war in Ukraine and its impact on the global economy, a senior US official said.

Russia is a member of the group so consensus on Ukraine is unlikely, and the official declined to say what form the condemnation would take.

Speaking in Bali, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Mr Putin’s government would hear the chorus of global opposition to its actions. “Russia’s actions put all of us at risk,” he said.

Russia has said Mr Putin is too busy to attend the summit.

Moscow says it is waging a “special military operation” in Ukraine to rid it of nationalists and protect Russian-speaking communities. Ukraine and the West describe the Kremlin’s actions as an unprovoked war of aggression. REUTERS

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