Zelenskyy arrives at G-7 summit in Japan as leaders ramp up pressure on Russia
Updated May 20, 2023 at 4:15 AM ET
HIROSHIMA, Japan and KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrived in Hiroshima, Japan, on Saturday to attend the group of seven leading industrial nations' summit as member states intensify sanctions on Russia.
On his arrival, Zelenskyy wrote on his Telegram channel: "Japan. G7. Important meetings with partners and friends of Ukraine. Security and increased cooperation for our victory. Today, peace will be closer."
On Saturday evening, Zelenskyy met with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, whose country has been criticized for its "strategic ambivalence" about Russia's invasion. It is the two leaders' first meeting since the war began last year.
Zelenskyy will then participate in a session on Ukraine on Sunday, the final day of the summit.
Zelenskyy last visited Japan in 2019 and met with then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Hiroshima, destroyed by a nuclear attack in World War II, is also laden with symbolism, as Zelenskyy has warned that nuclear-armed Russia could escalate its war on Ukraine.
And amid talk of Russia potentially deploying tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine, Zelenskyy's appearance would also reinforce the anti-nuclear message host nation Japan has been keen to send, analysts say.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visited Ukraine in March. There, he invited the Ukrainian leader to participate virtually in the meeting.
The G-7 leaders gathered in Hiroshima include President Biden as well as the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan. Leaders from Australia, India, Vietnam and Brazil are among invited guests.
Zelenskyy's visit comes as Ukraine faces pressure to achieve clear victories in a pending counteroffensive to liberate Russian-occupied land. There has been little movement since November, when Ukraine liberated the southern city of Kherson. Ukrainian troops are exhausted after months of defending the eastern city of Bakhmut, which is largely destroyed and mostly occupied by Russian forces.
Biden-Zelenskyy meeting "a safe bet"
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said a meeting between Biden and Zelenskyy during the G-7 summit is "a safe bet." But responding to earlier reports that the Ukrainian leader would travel on a U.S. military plane, Sullivan said that the U.S. is "not the party, the country that flew him here."
Earlier, the U.S. said it would support transferring advanced fighter jets, including U.S.-made F-16s, to Ukraine. Washington would also help train Ukrainian pilots to fly them, in a major decision that could see other nations follow suit.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor in the Ukrainian president's office, told NPR on Saturday that Ukraine welcomes the decision, which he noted was long overdue, as Russia has stepped up air attacks on Ukraine.
"Our military will need only a few months of intensive training to learn how to use, operate and repair the F-16," he said. "And I don't have the slightest doubt it will significantly strengthen our air defense."
The war in Ukraine is on top of the agenda in Hiroshima this week. On Friday, leaders agreed on more sanctions on Russia and urged Moscow to stop its ongoing aggression and "immediately, completely and unconditionally" withdraw its troops and military equipment from Ukraine.
"We are imposing further sanctions and measures to increase the costs to Russia and those who are supporting its war effort," the statement said. "We are also building on the success of our efforts to ensure that Russia is no longer able to weaponize the availability of energy against the world."
Before arriving in Japan, Zelenskyy attended the Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia.
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