(Bloomberg) -- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s main diplomatic push to secure broader global support against Russia’s invasion has suffered a double blow less than a month before leaders gather for a once-ambitious summit.

Brazil and China announced a rival initiative early Friday aiming to bring both Ukraine and Russia to the table. And it emerged that President Joe Biden would likely be a no-show at the Ukraine conference in Switzerland because it clashes with an election fundraiser in California alongside stars including George Clooney and Julia Roberts.

The shifting diplomatic terrain amounts to a downgrade for the June 15-16 meeting near Lucerne that Zelenskiy had hoped would be the initial culmination of his nearly two-year effort to rally world powers — above all in the Global South — behind demands that Russia withdraw its forces from Ukraine as a precondition for a peace deal. 

Those goals look increasingly remote with steady Russian gains on the battlefield this year — and as support from potential allies outside the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Group of Seven risks fading with each month the war that’s grinding into its third year goes on. 

Brazil and China invited other nations to support their call for an international conference involving Russia and Ukraine to discuss an end to the war. It’s the first time they’ve made a joint appeal on the war since Russia began the February 2022 invasion.

That threatens to cast a shadow over Ukraine’s gathering, to which the Swiss government has invited more than 160 countries. Russia isn’t among them, as Ukraine and its allies don’t want to engage with Moscow until a set of principles that would define any future peace settlement are broadly agreed. 

Biden’s likely absence as he pivots to campaign mode ahead of November’s presidential election to try to erase Donald Trump’s poll lead in key states also risks undercutting Kyiv. The two men have disparate views of NATO, with Biden publicly maintaining full-throated support and Trump saying that US backing should be conditioned upon whether member countries have fulfilled their defense spending allocations. Trump, without offering detail, has also said that he could forge a deal between Russia and Ukraine.

China and Brazil, both members of the BRICS group alongside Russia, have insisted that a diplomatic forum that excludes Moscow won’t bring peace — a prospect that won’t go down well with Ukraine.  

Russia has long said it’s open to talks — a position viewed by critics as a tactic to undermine support for Kyiv, as Moscow presses forward with its war aims. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has shown no intention of taking peace talks seriously based on acceptable terms, Ukraine’s allies have said. Putin himself insists any talks must take account of “realities on the ground,” a reference to areas of eastern and southern Ukraine occupied by his army. 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the joint document with Brazil is aimed at garnering international support. “We welcome more countries, whether developing or developed, to support and join the consensus,” he said Friday in Beijing. 

An inability to build bridges to nations such as Brazil, India and South Africa would be a blow to Kyiv’s diplomatic campaign since Zelenskiy unveiled the blueprint at a Group of 20 summit in November 2022. It would also represent a broader failure of the West to win over opinion in the Global South, which has been reticent to criticize the Kremlin’s war.  

Several G-7 allies had cautioned Zelenskiy’s government against pushing for a summit before they had buy-in from key parties, above all China. While the Swiss hosts are holding out for at least a Chinese special envoy, Beijing has yet to say whom it will send. 

Zelenskiy is expected to join G-7 leaders at their June meeting in Italy just before the Swiss gathering. While several plan to travel on to the Swiss Alpine resort, neither Biden nor Vice President Kamala Harris are scheduled to attend, according to people familiar with the deliberations.

Though Ukraine’s peace blueprint ultimately aims to forge a set of broadly embraced principles — such as respecting territorial integrity before engaging in talks — the objectives of the Swiss meeting have been whittled down to a narrower set of goals as a way to ensure China and other BRICS nations were on board. 

While it’s not yet clear who’ll represent the Biden administration at the talks, the US presence is expected to be robust. Organizers forecast a big turnout of leaders.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who will attend the meeting, made clear that the focus will be on nuclear safety, grain exports and prisoner exchanges. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau plans to attend, while Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s presence is likely. 

“The peace conference in Switzerland is a building block,” Scholz told reporters in Berlin on Friday, adding that he expects a high attendance. “There will be this and certainly other such peace conferences.” 

Whatever the outcome, Ukrainian allies will aim to sell it as a success, according to an official involved with the planning. So far, however, the meeting is on course to miss a benchmark privately set by organizers, for the participation of 100 leaders, including from key nations. 

Putin has been working to stymie the effort, using the Kremlin’s diplomatic channels to Asia, Africa and South America to try to convince leaders to stay away. 

The Russian president and officials including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have been in talks with dozens of nations — from India to tiny Comoros — with the apparent aim of deterring participation, according to a diplomatic memo seen by Bloomberg.

Lavrov has also reached out to ambassadors in Moscow with the same goal, according to the memo, and a June 10-11 meeting of foreign ministers from BRICS countries and their allies may seal that effort. 

Zelenskiy on Thursday described Moscow’s attempts to scupper the summit as “the key goal for Russian diplomacy and foreign intelligence for the nearest future.”

--With assistance from Alberto Nardelli, Jennifer Jacobs, Michael Nienaber, Colum Murphy and Alessandro Speciale.

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