With Prospect of F-16s Closer, Zelensky Will Attend the G7 Strengthened
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine is scheduled to appear at the Group of 7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan, this weekend, to seek further commitments for more arms and aid from the world’s wealthiest democracies.
It was not immediately clear whether Mr. Zelensky would go to Japan in person or if he would attend the G7 events virtually. But whatever form his appearance takes, Mr. Zelensky’s position was strengthened on Friday, after several U.S. officials said that President Biden, in a major shift, had told U.S. allies that he would allow Ukrainian pilots to be trained on American-made F-16 fighter jets and was prepared to let other countries give F-16s to Ukraine.
Mr. Zelensky on Friday welcomed the “historic decision” by Mr. Biden, who had long expressed reluctance to allow the jets to be sent to Ukraine, and said on Twitter that he would discuss its “practical implementation” at the summit.
In the past week, Mr. Zelensky has visited Britain and other European nations, seeking to build support ahead of a widely anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive, and on Friday, he joined an Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia.
Mr. Zelensky is willing to travel outside Ukraine in part to demonstrate that he has confidence in the stability of his own government. There have been no known efforts by the Russians to interfere with his travels.
If Mr. Zelensky arrives in Hiroshima, he will almost certainly meet one on one with Mr. Biden. The leaders of India, Brazil and other nations that have been reluctant to support Ukraine are also at the meeting, as observers, and Mr. Zelensky’s presence could make it more difficult for them to maintain that stance, several officials said.
The leaders gathered in Hiroshima — who include President Biden; heads of government from Japan, Canada, Britain, France, Germany and Italy; and top European Union officials — will be talking over the weekend about all dimensions of Russia’s war in Ukraine. They will likely discuss the crucial question of providing the F-16 fighter jets to Kyiv and the possibility of negotiations over an armistice or peace treaty.
News of Mr. Zelensky’s expected trip to Japan was reported earlier by The Financial Times and other news outlets. Details of his travel are typically closely guarded for security reasons. While the head of Ukraine’s national security and defense council initially confirmed on Friday morning that the Ukrainian leader would participate in the meeting in person, the council later said in a statement that Mr. Zelensky would take part online.
Oleksii Danilov, the head of Ukraine’s national defense council, announced Mr. Zelensky’s trip on national television on Friday following news reports that he would attend.
“Very important things will be done there; therefore, the physical presence of our president is important in order to defend our interests,” Mr. Danilov said. “To provide clear proposals and clear arguments regarding the events taking place on the territory of our country.”
Shortly afterward, the council’s website posted a brief statement saying that Mr. Zelensky would participate in the summit online. Mr. Zelensky’s office did not immediately respond to a question about the conflicting information.
With its impending counteroffensive against Russian forces, Ukraine hopes to turn the tide of a conflict that in recent months has settled into a grinding, draining battle with little movement. Mr. Zelensky will be making his plea against the backdrop of a city that stands as a stark reminder of the catastrophic costs of war.
“We have a task to maintain the momentum of international support and communication for Ukraine,” Mr. Zelensky said in his nightly address on Thursday. “I am confident that we will accomplish this task.”