Biden gives Zelensky a show of support ahead of their meeting at the G7
President Joe Biden wrapped an arm around Volodymyr Zelensky in a show of support ahead of their one-on-one meeting as the Ukrainian president met with leaders at the G7.
Zelensky will address the summit on Sunday, asking for diplomatic and military support in his campaign to end the Russian invasion of his country.
Ahead of his remarks, he held a photo spray with the heads of state. In a striking contrast, the leaders of the world’s wealthiest democracies wore suits and ties; while Zelensky wore his signature military greens.
The heads of state were eager to show their support, taking time to chat with Zelensky after the photo was complete. Biden put his arm around Zelensky’s shoulder as the leaders left the room.
The stakes are high for the Ukrainian president, who needs the military might, economic muscle and cold hard cash of Western allies to expel Russian President Vladimir Putin and his forces from his country.
He will hold a one-on-one meeting with Biden later Sunday as part of his campaign to shore up support among the allies ahead of his planned spring offensive to try and drive Putin out.
President Joe Biden puts an arm around Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky
Zelensky hit the ground running.
He landed in Hiroshima on Saturday afternoon and jumped straight into a series of meetings, including with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and European leaders.
Biden “looks forward” to the meeting, a senior administration official told reporters.
‘The president will continue to reiterate the United States’ firm and resolute support for Ukraine going forward,’ the official said.
Zelensky arrived in Japan shortly after Biden reversed course and gave European allies the green light to send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine in its battle against Russia.
The embattled war president said the jets would not help the war effort immediately, but the decision was ‘great.’
‘I’m very happy,’ he said Saturday at the summit. ‘It will really help our society, our people to save houses, families.’
Zelensky, who made his furthest foray from Kyiv since Russia’s invasion began 15 months ago, arrived on a French plane at the heavily guarded Hiroshima airport. He also met with French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni at the G7 summit site.
While he was in Japan, Russia upped its war campaign in the Ukraine. The Wagner mercenary group and the national army attacked the city of Bakhmut and declared victory there.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky (enter) poses with G7 leaders for a family photo
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky arrives at Hiroshima Airport on Saturday
Zelensky is seen through the airport fence as he gets into his motorcade.
President Biden and President Zelensky will hold a one-on-one meeting at the G7 on Sunday
Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin (pictured) claimed his forces have full control Bakhmut – which Kyiv denies – in a video recorded in front of destroyed buildings as explosions are heard in the distance
Kyiv denied Russia had a victory there.
But Putin offered his congratulations.
‘As a result of offensive actions of the Wagner assault units, with the support of artillery and aviation of the ‘Southern’ unit, the liberation of the city of Artemovsk was completed,’ Russia’s defense ministry said, using the Soviet-era name of Bakhmut.
‘Vladimir Putin congratulated the assault units of Wagner as well as all servicemen of units of the Russian armed forces who provided them with the necessary support and flank cover, on the completion of the operation to liberate’ the city, the TASS news agency said the the Kremlin said.
The now largely-destroyed city is not a strategically important location for Russia, but Ukraine has poured large amounts of resources into defending it.
Western estimates say between 20,000 and 30,000 Russian troops have been killed or wounded in Bakhmut, while Ukraine’s military has also suffered heavily.
Meanwhile, Zelensky had a busy schedule on his first day at the G7 summit.
For Zelensky and Modi, it was their first in-person meeting since Russia invaded the Ukraine some 15 months ago.
India has close ties to Russia – it is a major purchaser of Russian weapons and Russia crude oil, which is helping to fund Putin’s war. And while Modi’s government has sent humanitarian aid to Ukraine, it has abstained from UN resolutions calling for Russia’s withdrawal and condemning the invasion.
Before he arrived at the G7, Zelensky stopped in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to address the Arab League Summit. In his remarks, he accused some Arab leaders of ignoring the horrors of Russia’s invasion of their country.
‘Unfortunately, there are some in the world and here, among you, who turn a blind eye to those cages and illegal annexations,’ he said, urging them to ‘take an honest look’ at the war.
Ahead of Zelensky’s arrival, Biden, facing pressure from Europe to help Ukraine end the conflict, agreed to allow European countries with F-16s to transfer some of the war planes to the embattled nation.
‘President Biden informed his G7 counterparts the United States will support the joint effort to train Ukrainian pilots on fourth generation fighter aircraft including F-16s,’ National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Saturday.
‘Over the past few months we and our allies and partners have really focused on providing Ukraine with the system’s weapons and training needed to be able to conduct effective offensive operations this spring,’ he said.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Kraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky met with Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (left) and Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni (right) at the G7
President Zelensky met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Sunday
President Volodymyr Zelensky travels in a motorcade as he arrives at the G7 summit
The plane carrying Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky makes its decent
Ukraine is planning a massive counter offensive to retake its territory and attempt to drive out Putin’s forces. But the delivery of F-16s – and the training to operate them – will take months.
‘I welcome the historic decision of the United States and @POTUS to support an international fighter jet coalition. This will greatly enhance our army in the sky,’ Zelensky wrote on Twitter.
Zelensky was in Europe this week to meet with leaders from France, Italy, the United Kingdom and Germany to shore up alliances and ask for more aid.
Early in the conflict Biden had resisted sending the advanced military fighter plans to Ukraine out of fears they would use it to strike into the heart of Russia, provoking the Kremlin to expand the conflict outside of Ukraine’s borders.
But several European countries have F-16s in their arsenals in wanted to send them to Kyiv but need American permission to give them to a third-party because of the advanced US technology on the planes.
Sullivan argued ‘nothing has changed. Our approach to the provision of weapons, material, training to the Ukrainians has followed the exigencies of the conflict.
‘Now that we have delivered everything we said we were going to deliver,’ he added, ‘we put the Ukrainians in a position to make progress on the battlefield through the counter offensive.’
President Zelensky with French President Emmanuel Macron
Japan rolled out the red carpet to welcome Zelensky
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky walks through the corridor of the Grand Prince Hotel where the G7 summit is taking place
Zelensky flew to Hiroshima on a French plane
F-16 fighter jets have long topped Ukraine’s wishlist
The F-16 training will be done by US personnel in the coming weeks. The timeline for that training remains unclear but American officials previously estimated it could take up to 18 months.
‘As the training unfolds in the coming months, we will work with our allies to determine when planes will be delivered, who will be delivering them and how many,’ Sullivan said.
The US Air Force has two F-16 air wings in Europe: the 31st Fighter Wing at the Aviano Air Base in Italy and the 52nd Fighter Wing at Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany. The US also routinely sends F-16 fighters in and out of Europe on a rotational basis in smaller groups.
So far, Ukraine has been relying on much older MiG fighters, 27 of which have been given to them by Poland and Slovakia. Only a few European countries have a supply of F-16s, including the Netherlands which has 40 and Denmark which has 30, in addition to Poland and Norway.
F-16s have been at the top of Ukraine’s weapons wishlist since it was handed main battle tanks from the likes of the US, United Kingdom and Germany.
Western allies have taken even harsher measures against Russia in an attempt to pressure Putin to end the war. G7 leaders announced another round of sanctions on Friday, targeting Russia’s energy sector and military complex.
Moscow, in response, has upped its bombing campaign in Ukraine.