Ukraine Peace Summit overshadowed by children's disappearance

The final declaration at this weekend's so-called "peace summit" of world leaders in Switzerland on ending the war in Ukraine was not heading for unanimous support despite concerns about the impact of the armed conflict on those whose lives have just begun.

Jun 17, 2024

Summit for Peace in Switzerland (AFP or licensors)

By Stefan J. Bos

At a mountain resort near the Swiss city of Zurich, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged world leaders of dozens of nations to help end a war in which even children are suffering. "No one has the right to kidnap the children from another nation. No one has the right to undermine peace. We are able to ensure the effectiveness of such principles," the president told the world leaders.  

He referred to about 20,000 Ukrainian children that Kyiv says were deported and forcibly displaced from their homes to Russia and Russian-occupied territories since Russia's full-scale invasion began in February 2022.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shares those concerns. "This is part of the effort we all undertake to engage and we are going to be focusing in particular on the issue of children stolen from Ukraine by Russia," he stressed.  

Only hundreds have returned home.

In 2023, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Children's Rights Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova for the alleged unlawful deportation of children.

She said some 730,000 children had been brought to Russia, most of them with their parents or other relatives, and that 2,000 children were evacuated from Ukrainian orphanages. However, she makes no mention of forcible displacement.

Yet, since Russia was not invited to the summit, it remained unclear how these and other issues would be resolved.

More land
As the summit began, Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded that Kyiv give up more land, withdraw troops deeper inside its own country, and drop its efforts to join the NATO military alliance before a ceasefire could start.

In addition, many invited world leaders stayed home, including U.S. President Joe Biden, who sent his Vice President Kamala Harris instead. "If the world fails to respond when an aggressor invades its neighbour, other aggressors will undoubtedly become emboldened,  she warned.    

Yet China, which wields more influence over Russia, declined to attend the talks.

And even those attending were unlikely to unanimously support the final declaration on how to end the war, with Ukraine insisting that Russia should withdraw from all territories.

Some questioned the Western willingness to cease Russian assets to pay for military assistance to Ukraine.

The talks came as fathers on both sides battled on the frontlines, even on Father's Day, with many wondering how long the war would continue.

Hundreds of thousands have already been killed or injured, and millions of people have been displaced.--Vatican News

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