Ukraine: Rishi Sunak pledges to accelerate military aide
Rishi Sunak said the world “stands united” with the Ukrainian people as he praised Volodymyr Zelensky’s historic appearance at the G7 summit in Japan.
The rallying call came as the world’s seven richest economies stiffened sanctions against Russia. They also threatened to reduce reliance on trade with China if the Communist state failed to press Moscow to end its war in Ukraine.
Mr Sunak greeted the Ukrainian President with a warm embrace shortly after he arrived in Hiroshima, declaring: “You made it!”
The Prime Minister said Mr Zelensky’s visit demonstrated that Russian brute force and oppression will never triumph over “freedom and sovereignty”.
After landing in Japan – his furthest trip from his country since the war began in February last year – the Ukrainian President said “peace will become closer”.
He will address G7 leaders today as part of his campaign to shore up support among the Western allies ahead of a planned spring offensive to try and end the 15-month conflict.
Mr Sunak said: “The G7 was once the G8. Russia was expelled in 2014 for its illegal annexation of Crimea and flagrant abuse of human rights and the rule of law.
“Nine years on, it sends an incredibly powerful message to have my friend and Ukraine’s President Zelensky with us in Hiroshima today. It tells the world that the G7 stands united with the people of Ukraine, in the face of a terrible onslaught. And it demonstrates that brute force and oppression will not triumph.
“The UK’s support for Ukraine’s defence will never waver. I am delighted that the G7 has agreed on the importance of giving President Zelensky the advanced military equipment needed to win this war and prosper as a free and democratic nation.”
The Sunday Express understands it was Mr Sunak’s idea that the Ukrainian President should attend the G7. The idea, which he first raised with Mr Zelensky a month ago, was then backed by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
A senior government source said: “The Prime Minister pitched it to Zelensky when they spoke in a call and then at an official level it was discussed with the Japanese.”
A Downing Street spokesman confirmed the pair met for a separate meeting on Saturday night, adding: “Following their discussion at Chequers earlier this week, the Prime Minister reiterated that the UK would continue to provide Ukraine with the military assistance needed to win the war and secure a just peace.”
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The G7 proposed a raft of new sanctions aimed at disrupting the Kremlin’s ability to get the materials it needs for the battlefield.
It also looked at closing loopholes used to evade sanctions, further reducing international reliance on Russian energy and narrowing Moscow’s access to the international financial system.
Separately, Britain published plans to ban imports of Russian diamonds, copper, aluminium and nickel, while the US added dozens of entities to a trade blacklist.
China was also in the G7’s sights. Leaders announced they would establish a new team to root out and counter Russia and China’s use of “economic coercion” to influence nations’ decisions. They also issued a strongly worded statement on China, calling on the Communist state to “play by international rules”.
It said: “We will seek to address the challenges posed by China’s non-market policies and practices, which distort the global economy. We will counter malign practices, such as illegitimate technology transfer or data disclosure. We will foster resilience to economic coercion.”
As part of the effort, the G7 called on Chinese President Xi Jinping to step in over Ukraine, threatening to reduce reliance on trade with China.
The statement added: “We call on China to press Russia to stop its military aggression and immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw its troops from Ukraine. We encourage China to support a comprehensive, just and lasting peace based on territorial integrity and the principles and purposes of the UN Charter, including through its direct dialogue with Ukraine.”
Mr Zelensky’s appearance comes after US President Joe Biden gave European allies the green light to send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine for its battle against Vladimir Putin’s war machine. Britain is expected to start training Ukrainian pilots within the next two months to boost their air combat capabilities by adapting Nato tactics.
The training will be conducted using European-owned but US-made F-16s.
On Saturday night, Mr Sunak met with French President Emmanuel Macron and had a short meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. They discussed Ukraine and the small boats crisis, Downing Street said.
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