The Group of Seven talks concluded Sunday with a dramatic, personal appeal from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who pressed the leaders gathered here to remain united against Russian aggression.
In a rare morning photo-op, leaders in suit jackets lined up alongside the Ukrainian president, dressed in his usual military green, to show their continued support for his country continues.
As they meet behind closed doors, Zelensky is almost certain to continue his appeals for more powerful weapons and tougher sanctions on Russia.
“Now our power is growing,” Zelensky wrote in a tweet along with a video of him greeting various leaders at the summit.
“Anyone who wants to launch aggression against a democratic country sees what the answer is. And the more we all work together, the less likely it is that anyone in the world will follow Russia’s crazy path,” he added. he.
Zelensky’s decision to travel halfway around the world to deliver his pleas to the world’s major industrial democracies personally underscores the unity and uncertainty leaders have found themselves in for fourteen years. months since Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine began.
As Zelensky is bolstered by ever-more advanced weaponry — including this week, with US President Joe Biden’s decision to allow Ukrainian pilots to train on F16 fighter jets — there are fears that fatigue and political pressure will eventually lead to a decline in Western support. .
Dysfunction in Washington, clearly illustrated this past week by deadlocked negotiations on raising the federal borrowing limit, also contributed to questions among G7 leaders about how long political support for Ukraine can be sustained.
Debt ceiling talks are a “subject of interest” in talks this week, said Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, as leaders seek assurances that the United States will not default on the debt. this.
Biden himself has expressed optimism in avoiding default, dismissing statements from both negotiating sides as bluster and suggesting he expects a specific posture: “It’s going in stages. I’m already in it previous negotiations.”
Biden is expected to take questions from reporters at a news conference later Sunday, following his first one-on-one meeting with Zelensky since he visited Kyiv in February.
Against the nuclear backdrop of Hiroshima, which was obliterated by an American atomic bomb in 1945 during World War II, Zelensky’s warnings of Russia’s possible escalation carry great weight. In a message upon his arrival, the Ukrainian leader suggested that potential peace talks would be up for discussion.
“Peace will be closer now,” Zelensky wrote on Twitter shortly after he landed in Hiroshima.
His involvement on Saturday coincided with a new claim from the Russian private military group Wagner that its forces are in full control of Bakhmut, an eastern Ukrainian town that has captured a deep symbolic importance for the defense of the country.
A senior Ukrainian defense official argued that the city had been lost and Wagner had previously made the premature claim that its 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 is likely to include new artillery, ammunition and rocket launchers, officials said.
Earlier at the summit, G7 leaders agreed on a major new package of sanctions aimed at tightening the reins of the Kremlin’s war machine.
The image is the greatest unification for a bloc that has been given a new purpose in the war. Less than a decade ago Russia itself was a member of the G8, as it was known then, only to be expelled after its annexation of the Ukrainian territory of Crimea.
Now it is Zelensky who will join the leaders around the summit table, a rare turn of events that have highlighted the isolation of Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin.
However, there are reminders in Japan of the ongoing struggle to unite the rest of the world behind the Western initiative. Many invited guests to the summit, including the leaders of India, Brazil and Indonesia, were particularly reluctant to condemn the war in Ukraine.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who met with Zelensky on Saturday, assured the Ukrainian leader that he would do “everything we can” to find a resolution to the conflict.
“The war in Ukraine is a big issue in the whole world. It also has many effects around the world. But I don’t think it’s just an economic or political issue. For me, this is a people’s issue,” Modi said.