Chicago Tribune (Sunday)
Zelenskyy joins G7 talks in Japan
Ukraine’s president to attend sessions on war, world stability
HIROSHIMA, Japan — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrived Saturday in Japan for talks with the leaders of the world’s most powerful democracies, a personal appearance meant to galvanize global attention as the nations ratcheted up pressure on Moscow for its 15-month invasion of Ukraine.
Bolstering international support is a key priority as Ukraine prepares for what’s seen as a major push to take back territory seized by Russia in the war that began in February last year. Zelenskyy’s in-person visit to the G7 summit comes just hours after the United States agreed to allow training on potent American-made fighter jets, laying the groundwork for their eventual transfer to Ukraine.
Host nation Japan said Zelenskyy’s inclusion stems from his “strong wish” to participate in talks with the bloc and other countries that will influence his nation’s defense against Russia.
A European Union official, speaking on condition of anonymity to brief reporters on the deliberations, said Zelenskyy would take part in two separate sessions Sunday. One session will be with G7 members only and will focus on the war in Ukraine. Another will include the G7 as well as the other nations invited to take part in the summit, and will focus on “peace and stability.”
U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said that President Joe Biden and Zelenskyy would have direct engagement at the summit. On Friday, Biden announced his support for training Ukrainian pilots on U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets, a precursor to eventually providing those aircraft to Ukraine.
“It is necessary to improve (Ukraine’s) air defense capabilities, including the training of our pilots,” Zelenskyy wrote on his official Telegram channel after meeting Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni, one of a number of leaders he talked to.
Zelenskyy also met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, their first face-to-face talks since the war, and briefed him on Ukraine’s peace plan, which calls for the withdrawal of Russian troops from the country before any negotiations.
Russia’s deputy defense minister, Alexander Grushko, accused Western countries of “continuing along the path of escalation,” following the announcements that raised the possibility of sending F-16s to Kyiv.
The G7 vowed to intensify the pressure in its joint statement Saturday.
“Russia’s brutal war of aggression represents a threat to the whole world in breach of fundamental norms, rules and principles of the international community. We reaffirm our unwavering support for Ukraine for as long as it takes to bring a comprehensive, just and lasting peace,” the group said.
G7 leaders have faced a balancing act as they look to address a raft of global worries, including climate change, AI, poverty and economic instability, nuclear proliferation and, above all, the war in Ukraine.
China, the world’s No. 2 economy, sits at the nexus of many of those concerns. There is increasing anxiety that Beijing, which has been steadily building up its nuclear weapons program, could try to seize Taiwan by force, sparking a wider conflict.
The G7 on Saturday said they did not want to harm China and were seeking “constructive and stable relations” with Beijing, “recognizing the importance of engaging candidly with and expressing our concerns directly to China.”
They also urged China to pressure Russia to end the war in Ukraine and “support a comprehensive, just and lasting peace.”
The green light on F-16 training is the latest shift by the Biden administration as it moves to arm Ukraine with more advanced and lethal weaponry, following earlier decisions to send rocket launcher systems and Abrams tanks. The United States has insisted that it is sending weapons to Ukraine to defend itself and has discouraged attacks by Ukraine into Russian territory.
Decisions on when, how many and who will provide the fourth-generation F-16 fighter jets will be made in the months ahead while training is underway, Biden told leaders.
The G7 leaders have rolled out a new wave of global sanctions on Moscow as well as plans to enhance the effectiveness of existing financial penalties meant to constrain President Vladimir Putin’s war effort. Russia is now the most-sanctioned country in the world, but there are questions about the effectiveness.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov criticized the G7 summit for aiming to isolate both China and Russia.
“The task has been set loudly and openly: to defeat Russia on the battlefield, but not to stop there, but to eliminate it as a geopolitical competitor,” he said.
Meanwhile, in Ukraine, the head of the Russian private army Wagner claimed his forces have taken control of the city of Bakhmut, but Ukrainian defense officials denied it.
In a video posted on Telegram, Yevgeny Prigozhin said the city came under complete Russian control.
However, after the video appeared, Ukrainian deputy defense minister Hanna Maliar said heavy fighting was continuing.
“As of now, our defenders control certain industrial and infrastructure facilities in this area,” she said.
Russia’s defense ministry also said Bakhmut had been seized.