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Zelenskyy says peace will be ‘closer’ as he makes dramatic visit to Japan for G7 summit


HIROSHIMA, Japan — Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy landed in Japan on Saturday for diplomatic talks with Group of Seven leaders, hours after President Joe Biden and his allies announced a series of new sanctions aimed at preventing Russia from prolong the war.

“Important meetings with partners and friends of Ukraine,” Zelenskyy tweeted upon arriving at Hiroshima airport on a plane provided by France. “Security and enhanced cooperation for our victory. Peace will come closer today.

Dressed in his green military uniform, he shook hands with officials before being taken to the summit where he met several leaders, including British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron. He was also scheduled to meet President Joe Biden and deliver a speech.

Also on the program, a visit to a museum in Hiroshima dedicated to the atomic bomb attack that razed the city at the end of the Second World War. The visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum will likely have special resonance for Zelenskyy, whose small country is at war with a nuclear power.

As the three-day event approached, attendees expected him to appear at least virtually. But until Friday there had been no confirmation that he would make the potentially dangerous trip from Kyiv, the farthest he has traveled from his country since last year’s invasion.

He landed hours after the United States agreed to allow training on American-made F-16 fighter jets, laying the groundwork for their eventual transfer to Ukraine.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan later told reporters in Japan that Biden had shared plans with G7 allies — Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Canada — to provide the plane.

“Over the past few months, we and our allies and partners have been really focused on providing Ukraine with the systems, weapons and training it needs to be able to conduct effective offensive operations this spring. and this summer,” Sullivan said.

“We kept what we promised, we gave Ukraine what it needed based on close consultation between our military and theirs, and now we have turned to discussions on improving the Ukrainian Air Force as part of our long-term commitment to self-defense of Ukraine.”

Sullivan suggested that the fighter jets were part of this commitment and that as the training unfolded in the coming months, the United States would work with allies to determine the details of the delivery of the planes, including the number that would be sent.

When Ukraine will receive the fighter jets — and which countries will provide them — remains unclear, but a senior Biden administration official told NBC News on Friday that the planes will not be used for the upcoming counteroffensive by Ukraine against Russia.

Sullivan also told reporters he thought it was “a safe bet” that President Joe Biden would meet Zelenskyy at the summit.

The G7 pledged to step up pressure on Russia in a joint statement on Saturday.

“Russia’s brutal war of aggression poses a threat to the entire world in violation of the fundamental norms, rules and principles of the international community. We reaffirm our unwavering support for Ukraine for as long as it takes to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace,” he said.

Russia is now the most sanctioned country in the world and the latest measures targeting Moscow include tighter restrictions on already sanctioned people and companies involved in the war effort.

“Our support for Ukraine will not waver,” the statement said. The G7 leaders also vowed “to unite against Russia’s illegal, unjustifiable and unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine”.

“Russia started this war and can end this war,” they said.

Peter Nicholas reported from Hiroshima and Leila Sackur from London.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.