President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine landed in Japan on Saturday to meet leaders of the world’s wealthiest democracies, bolstered by a major shift from President Joe Biden that opens a path for Ukraine to get the American-made F-16 fighter jets he has been pleading for.
A red carpet had been rolled out on the tarmac of an airport in Hiroshima, Japan, where live footage on the public broadcaster, NHK, showed Zelensky stepping off a French plane wearing an olive green-coloured hooded jacket — putting to rest intense speculation over whether he would attend the Group of 7 summit virtually or in person. He was immediately whisked away in a black sedan.
“Japan. G7. Important meetings with partners and friends of Ukraine,” Zelensky wrote on Twitter shortly after landing. “Security and enhanced cooperation for our victory. Peace will become closer today.”
He later posted videos of himself meeting Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Britain and Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni of Italy.
Zelensky’s visit to Japan for the G7 meeting — the details of which were kept murky until shortly before he stepped off the plane — followed a trip to Saudi Arabia, where he urged Arab leaders meeting there not to turn a “blind eye” to Russian atrocities in Ukraine.
It also came after Biden told US allies that he would allow Ukrainian pilots to be trained on American-made F-16 fighter jets, moving towards letting other countries give the planes to Kyiv.
Early on Saturday in Hiroshima, Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser, confirmed reports that the US and its allies would discuss in the coming months how to supply Kyiv with the jets themselves, despite earlier reluctance by the administration, which feared the move could lead to further escalation. The US is not expected, at least under current plans, to send its own F-16s.
Zelensky welcomed the “historic decision” by Biden, and said on Twitter that he would discuss its “practical implementation”.
New York Times News Service