G7 summit: talks culminate on Sunday with Zelensky appealing in person

Hiroshima, Japan

The Group of Seven talks culminated on Sunday with a dramatic personal appeal from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, urging the leaders gathered here to stand united against Russian aggression.

In a striking morning photo op, leaders in suit jackets lined up alongside Ukraine’s president, dressed in his usual military green, to show their continued support for his country’s future.

As they met behind closed doors, it was all but certain that Zelensky would continue his calls for stronger weapons and tougher sanctions against Russia.

Zelensky’s decision to travel halfway around the world to deliver his pleas to the world’s major industrial democracies in person underscored both the unity and uncertainty that leaders have found themselves in fourteen months since the start of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

As Zelensky has been bolstered by ever more advanced weaponry – including this week, with US President Joe Biden’s decision to allow Ukrainian pilots to be trained on F16 fighter jets – there are fears that fatigue and pressure politics will ultimately diminish Western support. .

The dysfunction in Washington, clearly illustrated last week by deadlocked negotiations over raising the federal borrowing ceiling, has also contributed to questions from G7 leaders about how long political support for Ukraine will continue.

Debt ceiling talks have been a “topic of interest” in talks this week, Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan said, as leaders seek assurances that the United States will not will not default on their debt.

Biden himself expressed optimism that the default could be avoided, calling statements from both negotiating parties bluster and suggesting he expected some posture: “It’s happening in stages. I have already participated in these negotiations.

Biden is expected to take questions from reporters at a press conference later on Sunday, following his first one-on-one meeting with Zelensky since visiting Kyiv in February.

Against the nuclear backdrop of Hiroshima, which was obliterated by a US atomic bomb in 1945 during World War II, Zelensky’s warnings of potential Russian escalation will carry significant weight. In a message upon his arrival, the Ukrainian leader hinted that possible peace talks could be discussed.

“Peace will come closer today,” Zelensky wrote on Twitter shortly after landing in Hiroshima.

His participation on Saturday coincided with a new claim by Russia’s private military group Wagner that its forces had taken full control of Bakhmut, a town in eastern Ukraine that has taken on a deeply symbolic importance for the country’s defense.

A senior Ukrainian defense official disputed the loss of the city, and Wagner previously prematurely claimed that his mercenaries had captured Bakhmut.

Biden is also expected to unveil a new $375 million military aid package after world leaders hear from Zelensky, according to a person familiar with the matter. The aid package will likely include new artillery pieces, ammunition and rocket launchers, officials said.

Earlier in the summit, G7 leaders agreed on a major new sanctions package aimed at tightening the noose on the Kremlin war machine.

The image was of the larger unit for a block that was given a new purpose by the war. Less than a decade ago, Russia itself was a member of the G8, as it was then called, only to be expelled after its annexation of the Ukrainian territory of Crimea.

It is now Zelensky who will join the leaders around the summit table, a remarkable turn of events that underscores the isolation of Russia and its President, Vladimir Putin.

Still, there were reminders in Japan of the ongoing struggle to unite the rest of the world behind the Western initiative. A number of guests at the summit, including the leaders of India, Brazil and Indonesia, were more reluctant to condemn the war in Ukraine.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who met Zelensky on Saturday, assured the Ukrainian leader that he would do “everything we can” to find a solution to the conflict.

“The war in Ukraine is a big problem for the whole world. It also had many effects on the whole world. But I don’t see it as just a matter of economics or politics. For me, it’s a question of humanity,” Modi said.


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