G7 concludes with pledge of support to Ukraine as Zelenskyy laments Bakhmut destruction

US President Biden said Russia won't break resolve of Kyiv's allies

US President Joe Biden at a news conference following the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan, on Sunday.  Bloomberg
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The G7 bloc of rich democracies pledged on Sunday its continued support for Ukraine, as the three-day summit concluded in the Japanese city of Hiroshima.

The group sounded a warning to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who claimed to have taken the strategic city of Bakhmut.

Russia "will not break" the resolve of Ukraine's allies, US President Joe Biden said, after speaking with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the summit.

"Together with the entire G7 we have Ukraine's back and I promise we're not going anywhere," Mr Biden said.

The US President said he had assured Mr Zelenskyy that Washington and other backers of Kyiv "will not waver, Putin will not break our resolve as he thought he could".

Mr Biden announced a new military aid package worth $375 million for Ukraine during his meeting with Mr Zelenskyy, saying the US would provide ammunition and armoured vehicles.

That new pledge came after the US agreed to allow training on American-made F16 fighter jets, laying the groundwork for their eventual transfer to Ukraine.

Mr Zelenskyy thanked Biden for the support, adding that “we will never forget.”

Other leaders of the G7 nations including Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Canada, echoed Mr Biden's sentiments.

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

Mr Biden told G7 leaders Washington supports joint allied training programmes for Ukrainian pilots on F16s warplanes, although Kyiv has not won commitments for delivery of the fighter jets.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the potential for such training on US-made F16s is a message to Russia that it should not expect to succeed by prolonging the conflict.

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

G7 decisions seek to 'contain' Russia and China, says Lavrov

G7 decisions seek to 'contain' Russia and China, says Lavrov

Mr Zelenskyy said he was confident that Kyiv would receive F-16 fighter jets from the West.

He said Russian troops were in Bakhmut, which Moscow claimed it captured a day earlier, but insisted the east Ukrainian town was "not occupied".

But Mr 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.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov criticised the summit for aiming to isolate both China and Russia.

“The task has been set loudly and openly: to defeat Russia on the battlefield, but not to stop there, but to eliminate it as a geopolitical competitor,” he said. “Look at the decisions that are now being discussed and adopted in Hiroshima, at the G7 summit, and which are aimed at the double containment of Russia and China.”

Two rounds

Mr Zelenskyy held two major rounds of meetings on Sunday, one with G7 member states and a second with a host of invited guests, including India and South Korea. He also held one-to-one talks with several of the leaders.

He compared the "total destruction" of Bakhmut to the 1945 nuclear devastation of Hiroshima, which hosted the G7 summit.

"Today [Russian troops] are in Bakhmut," Mr Zelenskyy said at a press conference during the summit, insisting "Bakhmut is not occupied by Russia today".

"I cannot share with you the tactical views of our military. The most difficult thing would be if there was some tactical mistake in Bakhmut and our people were surrounded," he said.

Head of Wagner Group threatens to pull out of Bakhmut

Head of Wagner Group threatens to pull out of Bakhmut

Mr Zelenskyy also met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, their first face-to-face talks since the war. He briefed Mr Modi on Ukraine’s peace plan, which calls for the withdrawal of Russian troops from the country before any negotiations.

India, the world’s largest democracy and a major buyer of Russian arms and oil, has avoided outright condemnation of Russia’s invasion.

Mr Zelenskyy attributed the fact that he did not meet Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to scheduling issues.

Asked if he was disappointed the meeting did not happen, he suggested it was more of a disappointment for the Brazilian leader.

"I think it disappointed him," he said.

US vs China

Addressing issues other than the Ukraine war, Mr Biden said ties between Washington and Beijing should thaw "very shortly", after the US shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon this year.

"It got shot down and everything changed in terms of talking to one another. I think you're going to see that begin to thaw very shortly," Mr Biden told reporters at the summit.

Mr Biden also met the leaders of Japan and South Korea to discuss military interoperability and the economic coercion they face from China, a US official said.

A day earlier, the G7 leaders outlined a shared approach towards China, looking to "de-risk, not decouple" economic engagement with the 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.

Updated: May 22, 2023, 5:57 AM