Kremlin decries Ukraine peace summit as Putin heads for North Korea

Putin appointed relative to senior defence post amid another shake-up at the ministry

A Ukrainian artillery crew in the town of Vovchansk firings at Russian positions. Photograph: Finbarr O'Reilly/The New York Times

Russia has dismissed the impact of a global peace summit on Ukraine to which it was not invited, as its president Vladimir Putin prepared to visit his North Korean allies and appointed a relative to a senior defence post amid another shake-up at the ministry.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy thanked more than 90 states for attending a weekend summit in Switzerland, at which about 80 countries signed a joint statement that expressed support for his country’s territorial integrity and for the need to ensure nuclear and food security and to return deported Ukrainians from Russia.

Moscow portrayed the event as a failure. It was not invited to the talks, and China cited Russia’s absence as its main reason for not attending. Several influential countries that were at the summit did not sign the final communique, including India, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and South Africa.

“If one talks about the effectiveness of this meeting in general, then of course it is close to zero,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. “We will continue to talk with all countries that are ready to do so. This is our president’s stance.”

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Mr Putin has said Russia will discuss peace if Ukraine accepts Russia’s occupation of several of its regions and gives up its Nato membership ambitions.

The Kremlin said Mr Putin would pay his first visit to neighbouring North Korea since 2000 on Tuesday and Wednesday before travelling on to Vietnam, as he seeks to bolster support for what he calls Russia’s bid to end US domination of global affairs.

The US says North Korea has supplied shells and missiles to Russia for use in Ukraine and may have received satellite technology in return. Moscow and Pyongyang deny this, and insist that no UN sanctions on North Korea have been broken.

Heavy fighting continued in eastern Ukraine, where top Ukrainian commander Oleksandr Syrskyi said Russia was trying to get the upper hand before Kyiv received more western weapons and F-16 jets, at which point “time will be on our side”.

Ukrainian officials said at least 12 people were injured on Monday in a Russian air strike on the eastern Poltava region, which damaged apartment blocks and an unspecified infrastructure site and cut electricity to more than 50,000 customers.

A month after Mr Putin replaced veteran defence minister Sergei Shoigu and following the detention of at least two senior officials at the ministry over alleged corruption, Mr Putin sacked four deputy defence ministers on Monday.

One replacement named was Anna Tsivileva, whom Russian media identified as the daughter of one of Mr Putin’s cousins. Another appointee was Pavel Fradkov, the son of Mikhail Fradkov, who served as prime minister under Mr Putin 20 years ago.

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin is a contributor to The Irish Times from central and eastern Europe