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Zelensky says China’s ‘support to Russia’ will extend war in Ukraine during surprise appearance in Asia


China’s support to Russia will extend the war in Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday, as he called on countries across the Asia-Pacific to join an upcoming peace summit he accused Russia of trying to thwart.

Zelensky made the comments in Singapore during a surprise appearance at a meeting of defense chiefs from across the Asia-Pacific, including China and the US. It comes ahead of the international peace conference on Ukraine slated to be held June 15-16 in Switzerland.

“With China’s support to Russia the war will last longer. That is bad for the whole world, and the policy of China – who declares that it supports territorial integrity and sovereignty and declares it officially. For them it is not good,” Zelensky said during a press conference.

China claims neutrality in the conflict and has said it is a proponent of peace, even as it has emerged as a key economic lifeline and tightened its already close strategic and diplomatic partnership with Russia since the country’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

The US has also alleged that China’s export of dual-use goods to Russia is powering the warring country’s defense industrial base and warned Beijing of consequences for such support – a claim Beijing has refuted, saying it has not provided weapons to either side and maintains tight export controls on dual use goods.

Zelensky alluded to such support in comments Sunday, saying certain elements that make up parts of Russia’s weaponry “come from China.”

The Ukrainian leader also warned that Russia was attempting to pressure countries not to join the upcoming international peace summit – with China’s help.

“Russia is trying to disrupt the peace summit and that is true … (Russia) is now traveling around many countries in the world threatening them with the blockade of the agricultural goods, of the food products, of chemical products … it is simply pushing the other countries of the world so that they’re not present on the summit,” Zelensky said after delivering an address at the defense conference.

When asked later about China’s statement it would not attend the peace summit, the Ukrainian leader accused Russia of using Chinese diplomats to disrupt it.

“Regrettably, it is unfortunate that such big independent powerful country as China is an instrument in the hands of Putin,” Zelensky said, speaking through an interpreter.

The Ukrainian leader added that he had not had any meetings with Chinese representatives in Singapore, despite interest on the Ukrainian side for more dialogue.

China last week said it would not send a delegation to the peace summit, saying any international peace conference should have “recognition by both Russia and Ukraine, equal participation by all parties, and fair discussion of all peace plans.”

Chinese Minister of National Defense Dong Jun in an address earlier Sunday said China had been “promoting peace talks with a responsible attitude.”

Dong also appeared to respond to US allegations that China is bolstering Russia’s defense industrial base with dual-use exports, saying in his remarks that China has not provided weapons to either side in the conflict and had put “stricter control” on dual-use exports.

US defense chief Lloyd Austin raised those transactions with Dong during a sideline meeting Friday, where he warned of consequences for any Chinese support of Russia’s military.

CNN has reached out to China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for comment on Zelensky’s claims.

The Ukrainian leader’s in-person appeal at the Shangri-La Dialogue comes as Ukraine’s troops scramble to repel a major Russian advance into its northeast region of Kharkiv amid shortages of weaponry and manpower more than two years into Russia’s invasion – raising the urgency for Kyiv to bolster international support for its peace plan.

Zelensky’s plan calls for the full withdrawal of Russian forces and a restoration of Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders. The Ukrainian leader has previously said he won’t negotiate with Russia until its forces withdraw.

“Time is running out” including for Ukrainian children taken by Russia, Zelensky told a packed hall during an address on the closing day of the three-day security meeting.

The summit, he said, would address three points of his peace formula, including “nuclear security, food security, and the release of prisoners of war,” as well as “Ukrainian children abducted by Russia” and enable countries to come to a consensus on peace in Ukraine that could be “passed to Russia.”

The International Criminal Court in The Hague last year issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for an alleged scheme to deport Ukrainian children to Russia.

Russia has referred to the peace conference as “trickery” designed by the United States, with a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson last week saying the “real ‘peace formula’” was for Western countries to stop providing Ukraine with weaponry.

So far more than 100 countries and international organizations have committed to join the gathering, Zelensky said.

The upcoming peace summit and Ukraine’s defense were also key topics for Zelensky as he held sideline meetings since arriving in Singapore on Saturday.

Those included talks with US Defense Secretary Austin, Indonesia’s President-Elect Prabowo Subianto, and Timor-Leste’s President José Ramos-Horta, as well as a delegation of American lawmakers.

In his meeting with Zelensky Sunday morning, Austin reiterated “unwavering US support for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression” and provided an update on American security assistance to Ukraine, according to a readout from Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder after the meeting.

Zelensky said in a post on Twitter that the two sides discussed “the defense needs of our country, bolstering Ukraine’s air defense system, the F-16 coalition, and drafting of a bilateral security agreement.”

He also thanked US President Joe Biden for “an important decision” regarding defensive strikes with American weapons, in reference to the White House’s decision, as reported by CNN, to permit Ukraine to use American munitions for limited strikes within Russian territory.

CNN’s Natasha Bertrand, Eric Cheung, Sandi Sidhu and Wayne Chang contributed to this report.

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