Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met leaders of the world’s most affluent nations in Japan on Saturday to press for more military assistance, just as a Russian mercenary unit claimed to have captured a major eastern Ukrainian city, though the war-torn nation says fighting continues.
A day earlier, Joe Biden informed allies that he would allow Ukrainian pilots to be trained in F-16 fighter jets. The move—which reverses the Biden administration’s long-standing opposition to giving Ukraine access to the planes—opens up the possibility for countries that own the America-made aircraft to send them to the Ukrainian military, where they will likely be ready for deployment this fall. The U.S. says it has no plans to add its own planes to the war effort.
Boosted by this news, Zelensky arrived in Hiroshima on Saturday to attend the weekend’s Group of Seven summit, where leaders of the world’s powerful industrialized democracies meet annually. The group comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as the European Union. It included Russia until 2014, when the country was suspended from the group after invading and annexing Crimea. Originally, Zelensky was scheduled to address the summit via video link, but asked to attend at the last minute.
“Japan. G7. Important meetings with partners and friends of Ukraine. Security and enhanced cooperation for our victory. Peace will become closer today,” Zelensky tweeted early Saturday morning. So far, he has met with leaders of Italy, the United Kingdom, India, France, and Germany, according to his Twitter account. He is expected to address the summit on Sunday, and will likely meet one-on-one with President Biden.
Ukraine has been asking for fighter jets since the onset of the Russian invasion in February 2022. In March, Zelensky renewed this request during a CNN interview, and in an address to his people the following month, he said he “raised the issue” of F-16 fighter jets on a call with Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy. But Biden has long resisted, due to his concern “that the jets could be used to hit targets deep inside Russia, and prompt the Kremlin to escalate the conflict,” The New York Times reported. But in recent weeks, Biden has faced increased pressure from European allies, U.S. lawmakers from both political parties, and Ukrainian political and military leaders.
“I welcome the historic decision of the United States and @POTUS to support an international fighter jet coalition,” Zelensky tweeted after the decision was announced. “This will greatly enhance our army in the sky.” Zelensky added that he planned on “discussing the practical implementation of this decision” at this weekend’s G7 summit.
On Friday, the G7 leaders released a joint statement on the war in Ukraine, collectively pledging to “provide the financial, humanitarian, military and diplomatic support Ukraine requires for as long as it takes.”