IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Zelenskyy says peace will become ‘closer’ as he makes dramatic visit to Japan for G7 summit

Wearing his trademark green fatigues, Zelenskyy shook hands with officials before he was whisked off to the summit in the first city to suffer a nuclear attack. 

HIROSHIMA, Japan — Ukraine’s President Volodomyr Zelenskyy touched down in Japan Saturday for diplomatic talks with the leaders of the seven industrial nations, hours after President Joe Biden and his allies announced a slew of new sanctions designed to impede Russia’s ability to prolong the war.   

“Important meetings with partners and friends of Ukraine,” Zelenskyy tweeted upon his arrival at Hiroshima Airport on plane provided by France. “Security and enhanced cooperation for our victory. Peace will become closer today.”

Wearing his trademark green military fatigues, he shook hands with officials before he was whisked off to the G7 summit, where he met with several heads of state, including British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron. He was also expected to meet with President Joe Biden and deliver a speech.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrives at Hiroshima Airport to attend the Group of Seven (G7) nations' meetings in Hiroshima, western Japan Saturday, May 20, 2023. (Kyodo News via AP)AP

Also on the agenda is a tour of a Hiroshima museum dedicated to the atomic bomb attack that leveled the city at the end of World War II. The visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum will likely have special resonance for Zelenskyy, whose small country is at war with a nuclear-armed power.

In the run-up to the three-day event, participants had expected the Ukrainian leader to appear at least virtually. Until Friday, there had been no confirmation that Zelenskyy would make the potentially dangerous trip from Kyiv, the farthest he has traveled from his country since last year’s invasion.

He landed hours after the U.S. agreed to allow training on American-made F-16 fighter jets, laying the groundwork for their eventual transfer to Ukraine. 

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan later told reporters in Japan that Biden had shared plans with G7 allies — Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Canada — to supply the aircraft.

“Over the past few months, we and our allies and partners have really focused on providing Ukraine with the systems, weapons and training that it needs to be able to conduct effective offensive operations this spring and summer,” Sullivan said. 

“We have delivered what we promised, we have given Ukraine what it needs based on close consultations between our military and theirs, and now, we have turned to discussions about improving the Ukrainian air force as part of our long-term commitment to Ukraine self defense.”

Sullivan suggested that the fighter jets were part of that commitment, and that as the training unfolds in the coming months, the United States would work with allies to determine details about delivery of the jets, including how many would be sent.

The timing for when Ukraine will receive the fighter jets — and which countries will provide them — remains unclear, but a senior Biden administration official told NBC News Friday the planes would not be used for Ukraine’s upcoming counteroffensive against Russia.

Sullivan also told reporters that he believed it was “a safe bet” that Biden would meet with Zelenskyy at the summit.

The G7 vowed to intensify the pressure on Russia in a joint statement Saturday.

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

Russia is now the most-sanctioned country in the world, and the latest measures aimed at Moscow include tighter restrictions on previously sanctioned people and firms involved in the war effort. 

“Our support for Ukraine will not waver,” the statement said. The G7 leaders also vowed “to stand together against Russia’s illegal, unjustifiable and unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine.

“Russia started this war and can end this war,” they said.

Peter Nicholas reported from Hiroshima and Leila Sackur from London.