Russia sees no chance of Swiss leading Ukraine peace process, envoy says

By Thomson Reuters Mar 26, 2024 | 11:57 AM

By Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber

GENEVA (Reuters) – Russia sees no chance of Switzerland leading efforts to secure peace in Ukraine, a senior Russian diplomat said on Tuesday, after Bern said it planned to host a high-level Ukraine peace conference in the coming months.

Swiss authorities have said that Russia is unlikely to take part, at least not at the outset of the talks.

“As of now, we don’t see any possibility that Switzerland would take the lead and organise something,” said Gennady Gatilov, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva.

Russia, which launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine two years ago, has said the Swiss initiative is doomed to fail without Moscow’s participation.

Gatilov said that while Moscow was not against negotiations to end the war, it would not take part in talks in Switzerland, a country he said had relinquished its neutrality with its stance on the conflict.

Switzerland has adopted the European Union’s sanctions against Russia over the invasion and frozen some 7.7 billion Swiss francs ($8.53 billion) in financial assets belonging to Russians, which Gatilov described as “stolen money”.

“That’s why we believe that Bern unfortunately devaluated its status as a neutral state,” he said.

President Viola Amherd said last month that Switzerland was looking to invite BRICS emerging economy nations, Arab states and countries from the Global South to the peace conference. China has said it would consider taking part.

Gatilov said the initiative was designed to get these countries to support Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s peace formula, which he said was unacceptable to Russia.

After two years of war, Russia holds just under a fifth of Ukraine’s territory, portraying the conflict as an existential struggle and accusing Kyiv’s Western supporters of using Ukraine as a theatre to fight Russia.

Moscow has repeatedly said it is open to talks, but that these must recognise the “new realities on the ground”.

Ukraine demands the restoration of its territorial integrity and a full withdrawal of Russian forces as conditions for peace.

($1 = 0.9028 Swiss francs)

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Mark Heinrich)