Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, center, walks to a car upon his arrival at Hiroshima Airport to attend the Group of Seven nations' meetings in Hiroshima, Japan, May 20, 2023. - AP photo

Zelenskyy Arrives in Hiroshima as G7 Agrees on F-16s for Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, center, walks to a car upon his arrival at Hiroshima Airport to attend the Group of Seven nations’ meetings in Hiroshima, Japan, May 20, 2023. – AP photo

HIROSHIMA, JAPAN — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrived in Hiroshima, Japan, Saturday afternoon to participate in the Group of Seven leaders’ summit, the farthest he has been outside of his war-torn country since Russia’s invasion began in February last year.

“Japan. G7. Important meetings with partners and friends of Ukraine. Security and enhanced cooperation for our victory. Peace will become closer today,” he wrote on Twitter upon his arrival.

Zelenskyy is scheduled to hold bilateral talks on the sidelines of the G7 summit with world leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden, summit host Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modi is set to host the Group of 20 largest economies in New Delhi later this year.

Ahead of Zelenskyy’s participation at the G7, the group announced it will provide Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets and train Ukrainian pilots to fly them. The move was a shift from Biden’s monthslong refusal of Zelenskyy’s request for the aircraft.

In a statement provided to VOA, a senior administration official said on Friday Biden informed G7 leaders that the United States will support a joint effort with allies and partners to train Ukrainian pilots on fourth-generation fighter aircraft, including F-16s, to further strengthen and improve the capabilities of the Ukrainian air force.

The training, set to begin in the coming weeks, will take place at sites in Europe and require months to complete, said the official.

“As the training unfolds, in the coming months, we will work with our allies to determine when planes will be delivered, who will be delivering them and how many,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said during a Saturday press briefing in Hiroshima.

Sullivan said the fighter jets will not be used for a planned counteroffensive against Russia.

Zelenskyy welcomed Biden’s decision, saying in a tweet it would “greatly enhance our army in the sky.”

Describing the plans to train Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 jet fighters as a “historic decision,” Zelenskyy said he would discuss the details with Biden when they meet Sunday.

Confirmation of Zelenskyy’s in person attendance to the summit earlier this week came as G7 leaders from United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Japan and the European Union, reaffirmed their “commitment to stand together against Russia’s illegal, unjustifiable, and unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine.”

In a statement, the group pledged to “mobilize all our policy instruments and, together with Ukraine, make every effort to bring a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine as soon as possible,” underscoring that it cannot be realized without “the complete and unconditional withdrawal of Russian troops.”

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