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regular-article-logo Sunday, 19 May 2024

Bakhmut destroyed but has not fallen, says Ukraine

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said training would start this summer and Ukraine would get the air force it needed for the future

Reuters And New York Times News Service Hiroshima Published 22.05.23, 04:42 AM
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky and US President Joe Biden shake hands during the G7 leaders’ summit in Hiroshima on Sunday.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky and US President Joe Biden shake hands during the G7 leaders’ summit in Hiroshima on Sunday. Twitter/ @AZ_Brittney

Leaders of the world’s richest democracies said on Sunday they would not back down from supporting Ukraine, in a warning to Russian President Vladimir Putin as he claimed to have taken the eastern city of Bakhmut, something Kyiv denied.

The Group of Seven (G7) summit in the Japanese city of Hiroshima took a dramatic turn this weekend with the arrival of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who flew in on a French government plane to canvass for greater support against Russia’s invasion.

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Zelensky, who earlier laid flowers at the cenotaph to victims of the world’s first atomic bombing of a city, said photographs of Hiroshima’s destruction during World War II reminded him of Bakhmut and other destroyed Ukrainian cities.

He also told a media conference there were still soldiers in Bakhmut and the city had not been captured by Russia.

Earlier, he told reporters on the sidelines of the summit that the battered eastern city, the focus of fighting in recent months, was destroyed.

Zelensky, who has made a showstopping appearance at the summit to marshal more military aid, did not give a clear answer when asked which side controlled Bakhmut. “It’s a pity, it’s a tragedy, but for today Bakhmut is only in our hearts,” he said.

A spokesperson for Zelensky, Serhiy Nikiforov, later clarified that the Ukrainian leader was not saying Bakhmut had fallen, but was refuting Russia’s claim to have taken the city.

Putin hailed what he said was a victory for his forces, describing it as the “liberation” of Bakhmut in a statement on the Kremlin’s website.

Other leaders of the G7 — the US, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Canada — echoed Biden’s sentiments.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised that his country would back Ukraine for as long and as much as necessary.

Biden told G7 leaders Washington supports joint allied training programmes for Ukrainian pilots on F-16s war planes. The potential for such training on US-made F-16s was a message to Russia that it should not expect to succeed in its invasion by prolonging conflict, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said training would start this summer and Ukraine would get the air force it needed for the future.

It was “significant” that the G7 nations showed solidarity in their intention to uphold international law and order during a summit attended by Zelenskiy as a guest, said the Prime Minister of host nation Japan, Fumio Kishida.

Scholz said that while the immediate priority was supporting Ukraine’s defence, security guarantees for Ukraine needed to be established once the war was over.

Both Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron appeared to stand with Ukraine in opposing any notion of the war becoming a “frozen conflict”, or any proposal for peace talks without Russian troops withdrawing.

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