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

Ukraine’s President Volodomyr Zelenskyy touched down in Japan Saturday for diplomatic talks with the leaders of the Group of Seven nations, hours after President Joe Biden and his allies announced a slew of new sanctions designed to impede Russia’s ability to prolong the war.   

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

Wearing his trademark green fatigues he shook hands with officials before he was whisked off to the summit in the first city to suffer a nuclear attack. 

In the run-up to the summit, participants had 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 furthest he has traveled from his country since last year’s invasion.

He landed hours after the U.S. 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 on Friday that Biden had shared plans with G7 allies — Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Canada — to supply the aircraft.

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

“We have delivered what we promised, we have given Ukraine what it needs based on close consultations between our military and theirs, and now, we have turned to discussions about improving the Ukrainian Air Force as part of our long term commitment to Ukraine self defense.”

Sullivan suggested that the fighter jets were part of that commitment, and that as the training unfolds in the coming months, the United States would work with allies to determine details about delivery of the jets, including how many would be sent.

The timing for when Ukraine will receive the fighter jets — and which countries will provide them — remains unclear, but a senior Biden administration official told NBC News Friday, the planes would not be used for Ukraine’s upcoming counteroffensive against Russia.

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

The G7 vowed to intensify the pressure on Russia in a 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,” it said.

Russia is now the most-sanctioned country in the world and the latest measures aimed at Moscow include tighter restrictions on already-sanctioned people and firms involved in the war effort. 

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

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

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