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Ukraine war latest: US Vice President Kamala Harris will attend global peace summit in Biden's place

by The Kyiv Independent news desk June 3, 2024 8:32 PM 9 min read
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris speaks on stage at the 2024 Munich Security Conference on Feb. 16, 2024 in Munich, Germany. (Johannes Simon/Getty Images)
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Key updates on June 3:

  • US Vice President Kamala Harris will attend global peace summit
  • Russian strike in Donetsk Oblast kills 2, including 12-year-old boy
  • UK military chief confident Ukraine will win the war, but allies must 'maintain support'
  • Restarting Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant 'difficult to envisage' during war, says IAEA chief
  • Russian attacks against Ukraine kill 1, injure 13 over past day

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris will attend the upcoming global peace summit to be held on June 15-16 in Switzerland, the White House said on June 3.

The announcement comes a few days after it was reported President Joe Biden would likely miss the event as it clashes with a campaign fundraiser he is set to attend alongside, among others, George Clooney, Julia Roberts, and Jimmy Kimmel. The White House's statement effectively confirmed that Biden would not be attending.

"The Vice President will underscore the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to supporting Ukraine’s effort to secure a just and lasting peace, based on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and the principles of the U.N. Charter," the White House said in a statement.

"The Vice President will reaffirm support for the people of Ukraine as they defend themselves against ongoing Russian aggression."

The statement also said U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan would be attending.

Reports that Biden would not attend the event prompted President Volodymyr Zelensky on May 28 to say his absence would  "only be met by an applause by (Vladimir) Putin, a personal, standing applause by Putin."

"I believe that the peace summit needs President Biden, and other leaders need President Biden because they will look at the U.S.’s reaction," Zelensky said.

Saudi Arabia does not plan to be present at the event because Russia will not be there, it was reported on June 2, despite the country hosting an international summit on the peace formula in August 2023.

On June 2, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said Hungary has not decided whether to take part in the peace summit as "not all sides of the war" will be present at the event.

Zelensky has accused Russia of "blackmailing some leaders and trying to block the participation of some countries."

The peace summit will be held on June 15-16 in the Burgenstock resort in Switzerland.

Ukraine hopes the summit will address several key areas, such as energy security, the exchange of captives, the return of deported children, global food security, and other topics.

Some 107 states and international organizations have confirmed their participation in Ukraine's global peace summit, President Volodymyr Zelensky's spokesperson, Serhii Nykyforov, said on June 3 on national television.

Elsewhere on June 3, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning responded to an accusation from Zelensky on June 3, pushing back on Zelensky's claims that China is trying to sabotage the upcoming global peace summit.

The previous day, Zelensky accused China of "working hard" to prevent countries from participating in the summit, which is scheduled to be held in Switzerland on June 15-16.

China has never "fanned fire or fueled the flames" of Russia's full-scale war in Ukraine, Mao said.

"We believe that we can get the understanding and support of all parties," she added, saying that China's position on the summit has been "open and transparent."

China allegedly declined an invitation to participate in the summit as the terms it required to attend were not met, Reuters reported on May 31, citing several sources with direct knowledge of the matter.

Hungary undecided on peace summit participation due to Russia’s absence, Hungarian FM says
Hungary respects Switzerland’s efforts to achieve peace but doubts whether the summit makes sense if “there aren’t both parties to the war” present, according to the minister.

Russian strike in Donetsk Oblast kills 2, including 12-year-old boy

Russian forces attacked the village of Mykhailivka in Donetsk Oblast on June 3, killing two people and injuring one, Governor Vadym Filashkin reported.

One of those killed was a 12-year-old boy, according to Filashkin.

Mykhailivka is located in the Pokrovsk district, which sits close to the front line of Donetsk Oblast. Russian troops gained a foothold at the district's border back in April.

The Russian military carried out the strike in the morning with a guided aerial bomb. An hour and a half later, Russian forces repeated the attack.

At least five buildings were damaged.

"Tomorrow (June 4), Ukraine will commemorate the Day of Remembrance of Children who died due to the armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, and today another name was added to this sad list," the governor said.

Donetsk Oblast is subject to intense Russian attacks on a daily basis, often more than 2,000 strikes per day.

Russian attacks over the past day injured five people in Donetsk Oblast: two in Bilozerske, two in Zalizne, and one in Vovche.

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UK military chief confident Ukraine will win the war, but allies must 'maintain support'

The U.K. military chief, Admiral Antony Radakin, is "hugely confident" that Ukraine will eventually win the full-scale war despite Russia's recent tactical advances, he said in an interview with Sky News published on June 3.

Moscow launched a new offensive on May 10 in the north of Kharkiv Oblast. By the end of the month, Kyiv said that Russian advance in the sector had been halted and Ukrainian troops were conducting counterattacks.

Radakin insisted that Russia is "failing" despite the ongoing offensive in Kharkiv Oblast and Ukrainian forces' issues with personnel and ammunition shortages.

"Russia is making tactical advances on land," Radakin said.

"But you have got to then step back a little. If you go back to March 2022, Russia had taken about 17% of Ukraine's territory. Today it's got 11%. So, Russia is still in deficit."

Answering the question of whether Ukraine prevails in this war, Radakin said he is "hugely confident" it will.

"By the end of June, Russia will have lost 500,000 people – killed and wounded. We are already past 800 days for a war that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin anticipated to be three days long. This is tough for Ukraine, but we have to maintain our support."

The head of the U.K. military also said that the Russian leader does not want a war with NATO or a nuclear war.

"We have enormous overmatch because of the strength of NATO," Radakin added, recalling how Western allies downed the vast majority of the drones and missiles during the Iranian attack against Israel in April.

Iran launched more than 100 ballistic missiles, nearly 200 drones, and tens of cruise missiles, according to Radakin.

"I do not think our potential adversaries would have been able to respond in the way that you saw on the evening of April 13," the U.K. military chief said.

"I think the U.S. leadership and the proficiency that we have with our allies is at a level above our potential foes," he added, referring to Moscow and Beijing.

Russia’s latest offensive into Kharkiv Oblast is stretching Ukrainian defenses
Russia’s two-pronged assault in Kharkiv Oblast that began on May 10 is exploiting Ukraine’s troop shortage, forcing it to make difficult decisions about where to commit reserves. Two weeks into the offensive, one group of Russian forces is already fighting in the streets of the town of Vovchansk

Restarting Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant 'difficult to envisage' during war, says IAEA chief

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on June 3 "it's difficult to envisage" restarting the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant while fighting between Russia and Ukraine continues.

Speaking at a news conference during a meeting of the IAEA's 35-nation Board of Governors, Rafael Grossi said Moscow is not planning to decommission the facility and "the idea, of course, they have is to restart (it) at some point."

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, the largest nuclear power station in Europe, has been under Russian occupation since March 2022.

Ukraine has repeatedly accused Moscow of using the plant as a launch site for drone and artillery attacks on the Ukrainian-controlled opposite bank of the Dnipro River, presenting a serious security hazard.

Throughout its occupation, the plant has been repeatedly disconnected from the Ukrainian power grid due to Russian attacks on the country's energy infrastructure.

Grossi said there was a "need to have a discussion" about restarting the plant, but stressed there were several important steps to take before this would be possible.

"In terms of what needs to happen...there shouldn't be any bombing or any activity of this type," he said in comments reported by Reuters.

"Then there should be a more stable assurance of external power supply. This requires repairs, important repairs of existing lines, which at the moment, and because of the military activity, are very difficult to envisage."

Ukraine's nuclear energy agency, Energoatom, said last month that the plant should be handed over to Ukrainian control in order to avoid a nuclear disaster.

"Russian (forces) continue to create an extremely dangerous situation" at the plant, said Energoatom President Petro Kotin.

"In order to prevent the development of worst-case scenarios, the station must be returned to the control of the legitimate operator – Energoatom as soon as possible."

Energoatom said that the plant has experienced eight complete blackouts and one partial shutdown since the beginning of the full-scale war.

Explainer: 38 years after Chornobyl, Ukraine relies on nuclear for more than half its energy production
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Russian attacks against Ukraine kill 1, injure 13 over past day

Russian attacks against Ukraine over the past day killed at least one civilian and injured at least 13, regional authorities reported on June 3.

In Kharkiv Oblast, a Russian missile attack hit a recreational center in the Slobozhanske community shortly after midnight on June 3, killing one man and injuring a man and a woman, Governor Oleh Syniehubov said.

The facility was located in the village of Dachne, which lies around 30 (18-19 miles) kilometers south of Kharkiv, according to the regional prosecutor's office.

The victims included a 45-year-old resident of Donetsk Oblast killed and two injured employees of the center, the prosecutors said. Russia likely carried out the attack with S-300 missiles.

Two more people were injured on June 2 in the Borivska Andriivka village and two others in the Staryi Saltiv settlement on the same day, the governor said.

In Donetsk Oblast, Russian attacks over the past day injured five people: two in Bilozerske, two in Zalizne, and one in Vovche, Governor Vadym Filashkin reported.

Russian attacks against Bilozerka in Kherson Oblast on June 2 injured a 54-year-old woman and a 56-year-old man, both of whom were hospitalized, the Kherson Oblast Military Administration said.

Dnipropetrovsk, Kherson, Luhansk, Mykolaiv, Sumy, and Zaporizhzhia oblasts also came under attack, but no casualties were reported.

Russian troop losses hit record high in May, Ukraine claims
Russian troop losses in May amounted to 38,940, the highest monthly figure since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said on June 1.

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