Ukraine’s Zelenskyy to attend G7 as leaders up pressure on Russia

Presence of Ukrainian president is likely to bolster G7 and NATO resolve to continue supplying weapons.

Portrait of Volodymyr Zelenskyy when he was in the UK
Ukraine has confirmed President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will travel to Hiroshima [File: Carl Court/Pool via Reuters]

Hiroshima, Japan – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will attend the Group of Seven summit in Japan in person as the club of rich democracies seeks to ramp up pressure on Russia to end its war in Ukraine.

Zelenskyy’s attendance at the G7 leaders’ summit in Hiroshima is an unexpected development after the Japanese government earlier told local media that the Ukrainian leader would only attend Sunday’s talks via video link.

Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, confirmed on national television on Friday that Zelenskyy would attend the summit.

“We were sure that our president would be where Ukraine needed him, in any part of the world, to solve the issue of stability of our country,” Danilov said. “There will be very important matters decided there, so physical presence is a crucial thing to defend our interests.”

Ukraine’s presidential office said it had told Japan’s Kyodo News a day earlier that Zelenskyy’s attendance had not been ruled out, but would depend on the “situation on the battlefield”.

Nick Bisley, a professor of international relations at La Trobe University in Melbourne, described Zelenskyy’s confirmed attendance as a “big boost” for the summit.

“Particularly in their efforts to mobilise a unity ticket on Russia,” Bisley told Al Jazeera.

In Japan, G7 – the United States, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy, along with the European Union – are seeking to convey a united front as they weigh new punitive measures to punish Moscow over its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which is now in its 450th day.

G7 leaders are expected to announce new coordinated measures targeting Russia’s economy, although there are reportedly divisions among members about how far sanctions should go.

Zelenskyy has repeatedly called on the international community to increase its support for Kyiv and take stronger action to punish Moscow for its invasion of his country. Last week he made a whistle-stop tour of Berlin, Paris and London where he secured new weapons commitments.

John Blaxland, a professor of international security and intelligence studies at Australian National University, said Zelenskyy’s visit to Japan was reflective of his charisma and would bolster momentum to supply further arms to Ukraine.

“Zelenskyy will also be looking to meet with his South Korean and Australian counterparts – to push for additional Korean military supplies and for Australia to supply more Bushmasters and Hawkei protected mobility vehicles,” Blaxland told Al Jazeera.

“He will also be eager to press for the F-16 fighter aircraft to be made available.”

On Friday, a senior official with the administration of US President Joe Biden said Washington will roll out 300 new sanctions targeting 70 Russian entities and place more countries on a US blacklist.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also announced that the UK will ban imports of Russian diamonds, copper, aluminium and nickel, and sanction 86 people and companies linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In a joint statement released on Friday evening, the G7 leaders said that additional sanctions would “starve Russia of G7 technology, industrial equipment and services that support its war machine” and restrict exports of goods “critical to Russia on the battlefield”.

Source: Al Jazeera