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At G7, Zelenskiy says destruction of Bakhmut has echoes of Hiroshima

2023-05-21T11:29:29Z

U.S President Joe Biden announced a new package of military assistance as he sat down with Ukraine’s Volodymr Zelenskiy on Sunday at the G7 summit in Japan.

Leaders of the world’s richest democracies said on Sunday they would not back down from supporting Ukraine, in a warning to Russian President Vladimir Putin as he claimed to have taken the eastern city of Bakhmut, something Kyiv denied.

The Group of Seven (G7) summit in the Japanese city of Hiroshima took a dramatic turn this weekend with the arrival of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who flew in on a French government plane to canvass for greater support against Russia’s invasion.

Zelenskiy, who earlier laid flowers at the cenotaph to victims of the world’s first atomic bombing of a city, said photographs of Hiroshima’s destruction during World War Two reminded him of Bakhmut and other destroyed Ukrainian cities.

He also told a press conference there were still soldiers in Bakhmut and the city had not been captured by Russia.

Earlier, he told reporters on the sidelines of the summit that the battered eastern city, the focus of fighting in recent months, was destroyed.

“It is tragedy,” Zelenskiy said. “There is nothing on this place” – what remained was “a lot of dead Russians.”

During the final day of the three-day G7 summit, U.S. President Joe Biden announced a $375 million package of military aid, including artillery and armoured vehicles, for Ukraine.

He told Zelenskiy the United States was doing all it could to strengthen Ukraine’s defence against Russia.

“Together with the entire G7 we have Ukraine’s back and I promise we’re not going anywhere,” Biden said.

Putin hailed what he said was a victory for his forces, describing it as the “liberation” of Bakhmut in a statement on the Kremlin’s website.

The assault on the largely levelled city was led by troops from the Wagner Group of mercenaries, whose leader Yevgeny Prigozhin said his troops had finally pushed the Ukrainians out of the last built-up area inside the city.

Other leaders of the G7 – the United States, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Canada – echoed Biden’s sentiments.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised that his country would back Ukraine for as long and as much as necessary.

Biden told G7 leaders Washington supports joint allied training programmes for Ukrainian pilots on F-16s warplanes, although Kyiv has not won commitments for delivery of the fighter jets.

The potential for such training on U.S.-made F-16s was a message to Russia that it should not expect to succeed in its invasion by prolonging conflict, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said training would start this summer and Ukraine would get the air force it needed for the future.

It was “significant” that the G7 nations showed solidarity in their intention to uphold international law and order during a summit attended by Zelenskiy as a guest, said the prime minister of host nation Japan, Fumio Kishida.

Scholz said that while the immediate priority was supporting Ukraine’s defence, security guarantees for Ukraine needed to be established once the war was over.

Both Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron appeared to stand with Ukraine in opposing any notion of the war becoming a “frozen conflict,” or any proposal for peace talks without Russian troops withdrawing.

As Moscow’s 15-month-old invasion has dragged on, several analysts and diplomats have floated the idea that it could become frozen like the conflict on the Korean Peninsula. North and South Korea remain technically at war as their 1950-53 conflict ended with a ceasefire.

“Peace should not make Ukraine a frozen conflict because that would lead to a war in the future. It needs to resolve the problem,” Macron said.

The Hiroshima summit also gave Zelenskiy a chance to lobby for support from other attendees, like Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Brazil’s Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who have remained uncommitted.

While determination to help Ukraine repel Russia’s invasion was a key message from the G7 summit, the other was distrust of China as a trading partner.

Biden met the leaders of Japan and South Korea on Sunday to discuss military interoperability and the economic coercion they face from China, a U.S. official said.

A day earlier, the G7 leaders outlined a shared approach towards China, looking to “de-risk, not decouple” economic engagement with a country regarded as the factory of the world.

In a statement the G7 also reaffirmed the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, where Chinese military exercises have raised concerns over the security of Taiwan, the democratic, self-governed island that China regards as part of its territory.

China’s foreign ministry issued a complaint to Japan expressing firm opposition to the G7 statement, saying it disregarded China’s concerns, had attacked it and interfered in its internal affairs, including Taiwan.

Related Galleries:

General view shows the G7, Partner Countries and Ukraine meeting as a part of the G7 leaders’ summit in Hiroshima, western Japan May 21, 2023, in this handout photo released by Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan/HANDOUT via REUTERS

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy takes part in the G7, partner countries and Ukraine meeting as a part of the G7 leaders’ summit in Hiroshima, western Japan May 21, 2023, in this handout photo released by Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan/HANDOUT via REUTERS

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol shakes hands with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy as they take part in the G7, partner countries and Ukraine meeting as a part of the G7 leaders’ summit in Hiroshima, western Japan May 21, 2023, in this handout photo released by Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan/HANDOUT via REUTERS

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and French President Emmanuel Macron shake hands during the G7 leaders’ summit in Hiroshima, Japan May 20, 2023. Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attend a meeting during the G7 leaders’ summit in Hiroshima, Japan May 20, 2023. Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, U.S. President Joe Biden and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi walk as they hold a Quad meeting on the sidelines of the G7 summit, at the Grand Prince Hotel in Hiroshima, Japan, May 20, 2023. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/Pool

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attend a meeting during the G7 leaders’ summit in Hiroshima, Japan May 20, 2023 Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz attend a meeting during the G7 leaders’ summit in Hiroshima, Japan May 20, 2023. Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS
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