Zelensky arrives at Singapore security forum

Satish Cheney, Jing Xuan Teng - Agence France-Presse
Zelensky arrives at Singapore security forum
In this handout photograph taken and released by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Service on June 1, 2024, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky gets off his plane as he arrives to attend Shangri-La Dialogue Summit in Singapore.
Photo by Handout / Ukrainian Presidential Press Service

SINGAPORE, Singapore — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived at a Singapore security forum on Saturday as he seeks to rally support for Kyiv while a Russian offensive gains ground.

Zelensky got out of a white Audi sedan in front of the luxury hotel hosting the Shangri-La Dialogue and walked quickly into the lobby, which was crowded with defence officials from around the world, journalists and hotel guests.

After shaking hands with the organisers of the three-day event, Zelensky was applauded by onlookers and then escorted to an elevator.

Zelensky is set to speak at the security forum at 11:30 am (0330 GMT) Sunday, according to event organisers the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is also attending and a US official travelling with him said Austin would meet Zelensky and Ukrainian Defence Minister Rustem Umerov on Sunday on the sidelines of the conference.

They would meet to "discuss the current battlefield situation in Ukraine and to underscore US commitment to ensuring Ukraine has what it needs to defend itself against ongoing Russian aggression", said the US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Zelensky said in an earlier post on social media platform X he would also "hold a number of meetings, particularly with Singapore's President Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, Timor-Leste's President Jose Ramos-Horta, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and Singaporean investors".

Zelensky has been touring European nations in recent days appealing for more military aid for the Ukrainian army, which has been ceding ground to relentless Russian attacks.

His Singapore stop was announced shortly before his arrival at the hotel. It followed a decision by Washington to partially lift restrictions on using US-provided weapons to strike inside Russia, which Zelensky hailed as a "step forward".

US President Joe Biden had come under increasing pressure from a desperate Ukraine to ease the curbs, but had resisted for fear doing so could drag the NATO alliance into direct conflict or even a nuclear standoff with Moscow.

Germany said Friday it too had given Ukraine permission to fire German-delivered weapons at targets in Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Tuesday that there would be "serious consequences" if Western countries gave approval to Ukraine.

'Just peace'

Ukraine is struggling to hold back a Russian ground offensive in the Kharkiv region, where Moscow recently made its largest territorial gains in 18 months.

With Russia's war against Ukraine in its third year, Ukrainian soldiers are exhausted and outgunned.

Many of Kyiv's allies remain uneasy about the prospect of sending Western troops to Ukraine.

French President Emmanuel Macron sparked an uproar among NATO members in February when he refused to rule out sending troops to Ukraine.

Zelensky has visited Spain, Sweden, Portugal and Belgium in recent days as he seeks more weapons and aid for his struggling military, and to drum up support for a peace summit due to be held in Switzerland this month.

In his X post Saturday, Zelensky said the "Asia-Pacific voice" must be at the peace event, which was aimed at "restoring just peace for Ukraine and ensuring global food and nuclear security".

Sweden pledged 13.3 billion kronor ($1.25 billion) in military aid to Ukraine on Wednesday.

The Scandinavian country, which formally joined NATO in March, will donate a range of military supplies, including ASC 890 surveillance aircraft, Rb 99 medium-range air-to-air missiles and artillery ammunition, and its entire fleet of PBV 302 armoured tracked personnel carriers.

Russia fired a combined 100 missiles and drones at Ukraine in an overnight barrage targeting energy sites across the country, Ukrainian officials said on Saturday.

Russia has launched hundreds of aerial attacks at Ukraine's power facilities throughout the war, causing significant damage and energy shortages as Ukraine's stretched air defences struggle to repel waves of drones and missiles

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