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The war between Russia and Ukraine is set to grind on as a peace conference packs little punch


KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia and Ukraine are set to remain locked in battle for the foreseeable future after an international gathering billed as a first step toward peace delivered no eye-catching diplomatic breakthrough that might suggest a coming end to Europe’s biggest conflict since World War II.

The absence of Russia and China from the two-day conference in Switzerland on the weekend and the decision by some key countries — including India, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Mexico — not to sign the meeting’s final document Sunday meant that the gathering had little to show beyond some goodwill and pledges to keep working for peace after more than two years of war.

Meanwhile Ukraine, after being starved of ammunition due to late deliveries of promised Western military aid, is trying to hold on against a Russian onslaught in eastern parts of the country until its prospects improve.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday that the conference’s outcome was “close to zero.”

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who is trying to line countries up behind his version of what an eventual peace agreement should look like, said international meetings of advisers and government ministers would follow up on the talks and lay the ground for a second meeting at some future time.

Nearly 80 countries approved the final communique covering steps toward nuclear safety, food security, and the release of prisoners and deportees, including thousands of children abducted by Russia.

It did not zero in on the bedrock — and seemingly intractable, for now — issue: Ukrainian land occupied by invading Russian forces.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said last Friday he would order an immediate cease-fire in Ukraine if Kyiv’s forces pulled out of the four Ukrainian regions Russia annexed in 2022 and Kyiv dropped its bid to join NATO.

His other conditions for ending the war included Ukraine recognizing Crimea, a peninsula in the Black Sea that Moscow annexed in 2014, as part of Russia; restrictions on the Ukrainian military; and keeping Ukraine’s nonnuclear status.

Kyiv rejected those proposals as “absurd.”

Zelenskyy has previously presented a 10-point peace formula that, among other things, demands the expulsion of all Russian forces from Ukraine and accountability for war crimes. Those proposals are rejected out of hand by Moscow.

The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said Putin “is unlikely to be interested in good faith negotiations for the foreseeable future,” because he thinks that eventually he will win the war.

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has killed or injured hundreds of thousands of people and driven millions from their homes. It has also disrupted world markets for goods such as grain and fertilizer, fueling inflation, and it has driven a wedge between the West — which has sanctioned Moscow — and Russia, China and some other countries.

The war is in a critical period.

The Ukrainian army has shown resilience in facing down one of the world’s most formidable armies but it’s unable to keep up the fight without Western resupply. It also faces challenges with insufficient manpower and a lack of fortifications, offering Russia the chance to make battlefield gains this summer.

Russia, after more than two years of fighting, has so far been unable to deliver a knockout punch and is looking abroad for help to fuel its war effort.

Western military analysts say Russia’s army lacks quality due to losses of junior officers in the fighting. That means the Kremlin’s forces have difficulty generating momentum at scale, allowing Ukraine to hold them to incremental gains for now.


Litvinova contributed from Tallin, Estonia.


Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine