Bakhmut echoes Hiroshima, Zelenskyy says as he thanks G7 for F-16 fighters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy drew parallels between the horror of Hiroshima and the destruction of the city of Bakhmut at the Group of Seven summit in Japan on Sunday.

After Russia said it was in full control of battle-scarred Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine — a claim denied by Zelenskyy — the Ukrainian leader said it was unfair to compare Bakhmut to the first city to suffer a nuclear attack.

But speaking in Hiroshima, which hosted the three-day summit for the leaders of the world’s seven largest economies, he said photos of the city where the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb in 1945 “absolutely remind me of Bakhmut and other cities like it.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy meets with President Joe Biden during the G7 Leaders’ Summit in Hiroshima, Japan, on May 21, 2023.Brendan Smialowski / AFP – Getty Images

He said there was “absolutely, nothing alive there, all buildings are destroyed, there is even no understanding where a street is and where a building is. Absolute total destruction. Nothing left, no people left.” 

Today, he said Hiroshima was “a modern city that looks alive, with respect to people and values,” adding that he believed the same would happen in Bakhmut and other towns and villages.

Zelenskyy hadn’t been expected to appear at the summit in person, but after he arrived on a French plane Saturday dressed in his signature green military fatigues, he was warmly welcomed by the other leaders, including President Joe Biden, whom he met with on Sunday.

He said that Ukraine was expecting to receive “high-quality weapons” from all countries in the G7, which includes Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada and the United States.

“We will get the jets,” he said. “So far, I cannot say how many of them, this is not a secret, I truly don’t know that yet.”

His comments came after Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, whose fighters led the costly Russian push for Bakhmut, claimed Saturday to have finally captured the city. Russia’s Defense Ministry also said in a Telegram post that the city’s “liberation” had been completed.

Disputing the claims, Zelenskyy said his forces were “holding on” and “fighting thanks to courage of our people and warriors, and thanks to our intelligence.”

Moscow focused on seizing Bakhmut over the winter in the hopes of a much needed success that could also serve as a stepping stone to the rest of the surrounding industrial heartland known as the Donbas.

Ukraine sought to wear down Russian forces by forcing a protracted fight that turned into the longest and bloodiest of the war, buying time for its military to prepare a crucial counteroffensive.

On Sunday, Zelenskyy refused to provide details on where Ukraine would strike.

“Russia will feel when a counteroffensive takes place,” he said.

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