Zelenskiy secures fresh US military aid at G7 as Russia hails ‘liberation’ of Bakhmut

Volodymyr Zelenskiy has secured fresh military aid from the US during a day of frantic diplomatic activity at the G7 summit, as Russia claimed a battlefield victory in the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.

Joe Biden announced military assistance worth up to $375m (£300m) to Kyiv, telling Zelenskiy the US was doing everything possible to strengthen Ukraine’s defences in its war with Russia.

Their meeting came as Zelenskiy attempted to win over the leaders of non-aligned countries, including India and Brazil, who have so far declined to condemn the Russian invasion.

In a meeting with Zelenskiy on the sidelines of the summit in Hiroshima, Japan, Biden said the military aid package included ammunition, artillery, armoured vehicles and training, days after giving the UK and other allies the go-ahead to transfer US-built F-16 jets to Ukraine.

“Together with the entire G7 we have Ukraine’s back and I promise we’re not going anywhere,” Biden said. Later, he said he had received a “flat assurance” from Zelenskiy that the jets would not go into Russian territory, but added that they would be used “wherever Russian troops are within Ukraine and the area”.

Zelenskiy initially appeared to confirm the loss of Bakhmut, saying there was “nothing left” of the city. Asked if Ukrainian forces were holding on or if Russia had captured the city, Zelenskiy was not entirely clear, but said, “You have to understand there is nothing” there. “For today, Bakhmut is only in our hearts.”

But at a press conference later on Sunday, he said Bakhmut was “not occupied” by Russian forces, adding that Ukrainian troops remained in the city. “We are fighting thanks to the courage of our people, our warriors,” he told reporters. “I clearly understand what has taken place in Bakhmut. I cannot share with you the tactical views of our military. Bakhmut is not occupied by the Russian Federation as of today. There are no two or three interpretations of those words.”

The Russian military claimed on Saturday it had captured the city, the scene of the bloodiest battle so far of the 15-month conflict. The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, on Sunday congratulated the Wagner mercenary force and the Russian army for what he called the “liberation” of Bakhmut.

In a statement published on the Kremlin website, Putin said that the battle – the longest and bloodiest of the 15-month war – had ended in a Russian victory, and that all those who had excelled in it on Moscow’s side would be given state awards.

The G7 repeated its unswerving backing for Kyiv in its final communique, but the Ukrainian president had his work cut out to persuade the leaders of other countries to follow suit.

They include the Brazilian president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who has accused the west of “encouraging the war” and has not confirmed that he will meet the Ukrainian leader in Hiroshima.

Narendra Modi, who has called for a ceasefire in Ukraine but not condemned the Kremlin, was more forthcoming after meeting Zelenskiy on Saturday.

The Indian prime minister told Zelenskiy: “I understand your pain and the pain of Ukrainian citizens very well. I can assure you that to resolve this India and, me personally, will do whatever we can do.”

Zelenskiy appeared to have been encouraged by the talks, saying he believed India “will participate in the restoration of the rules-based international order that all free nations clearly need”.

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, described the summit as an opportunity to convince the emerging powers India and Brazil to back Ukraine, describing Zelenskiy’s surprise visit to Hiroshima as a “gamechanger”.

The G7 on Saturday vowed to intensify the pressure on Russia in its final communique, released a day early by the summit’s hosts, apparently anticipating that Sunday would be dominated by Ukraine.

“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,” the communique said. “We reaffirm our unwavering support for Ukraine for as long as it takes to bring a comprehensive, just and lasting peace.”

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, accused the G7 of trying the isolate Russia and China. “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.

Justin McCurry
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/may/21/g7-summit-zelenskiy-meets-world-leaders-in-japan-as-ukraine-war-dominates-talks