VP Harris to address Ukraine summit in Switzerland, meet Zelenskiy

nMunich Security Conference

By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris will attend the international Ukraine peace summit in Switzerland this weekend, where she will meet with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and address world leaders.

She will stress that the outcome of the war in Ukraine affects the entire world, a U.S. official said, and push for a maximum number of countries to back the notion that Russia's invasion violates the U.N. Charter's founding principles and that Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected.

Harris, who will spend less than 24 hours at the gathering in Lucerne, will be standing in for President Joe Biden at the event. The president will be just ending his participation at the Group of Seven summit in Italy and returning to the United States to attend a fundraiser for his re-election campaign in Los Angeles.

Harris will meet Zelenskiy and address the summit's plenary session. Biden met Zelenskiy both at the G7 summit, where they signed a U.S.-Ukraine security agreement, and in France for events surrounding the 80th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.

Harris, who departed for Switzerland on Friday night, will arrive midday on Saturday and spend several hours at the event before flying back to Washington.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan will represent the United States at the summit on Sunday and help establish working groups on returning Ukrainian children from Russia and energy security.

Russia was not invited to the event and has dismissed it as futile. China, a key Russian ally, says it will not attend the conference because it does not meet Beijing's requirements, including the participation of Russia.

The senior U.S. official said Russia's absence would not affect the summit but expressed regret at Beijing's decision.

"We wish the Chinese were showing up themselves," the official said. "They claim to be strong supporters of sovereignty and territorial integrity and these principles and they are allowing a country that they are supporting all too much, Russia, to violate these principles."

Ninety-two countries and eight organizations plan to attend.

"It is up to Ukraine's leaders to decide how and on what terms this war could end. Our job, what we've been trying to do, is put them in a better position on the battlefield for any eventual negotiation," the official told reporters.

The United States has contributed billions of dollars in weaponry to help Ukraine fight the war prosecuted by Russian President Vladimir Putin, although the latest massive package of aid from Washington was delayed for months by disagreements in Congress.

(Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Heather Timmons, Frances Kerry and William Mallard)