'Absolutely essential': Zelenskyy to attend G7 Summit in person

'Absolutely essential': Zelenskyy to attend G7 Summit in person
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Credit: Belga / Philip Reynaers

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will attend the 49th G7 Summit in Hiroshima in person, a senior Ukrainian official confirmed on Friday morning.

"Very important things will be decided there," Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine Oleksiy Danilov told Ukrainian state television, in comments that were first reported internationally by Reuters. "The presence of our President is absolutely essential in order to defend our interests."

During the intergovernmental political forum, which will run from Friday 19 to Sunday 21 May, G7 leaders are expected to announce a new round of sanctions against Russia: the eleventh since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his country's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Speaking to journalists shortly before the Summit, an unnamed American official claimed that the new sanctions would further reduce the West's reliance on Russian fossil fuels, limit Russia's access to international finance and close sanction-busting loopholes. "Our commitment to continue tightening the screws on Russia remains as strong as it was last year," the official said.

Just hours before the Summit was set to begin, the UK announced that it would also ban the import of Russian diamonds. At a press conference in Hiroshima on Friday, European Council President Charles Michel added that the EU "will restrict trade in Russian diamonds", and that the bloc is currently "working on [this], together with partners".

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Zelenskyy's visit to Japan – where he is set to arrive on Saturday – follows the 45-year-old leader's whistle-stop tour of G7 nations over the past couple of weeks, including trips to Italy, Germany, France and the UK.

Zelenskyy has recently been pressuring Western nations to create a 'jets coalition' by providing his war-torn nation with advanced Western fighter planes. He has also continued to highlight the importance of adopting his own 10-point peace plan  – rather than China's alternative 12-point peace proposal – for ending the war in Ukraine.

Unlike China's plan, Zelenskyy's proposal explicitly condemns Russia's invasion and calls for the establishment of a special tribunal to prosecute Russian war crimes.

Atomic significance

Zelenskyy's visit also has huge symbolic significance, given the growing global threat of nuclear war and the fact that Hiroshima was the first ever city to be hit with a nuclear bomb. The US atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945 is estimated to have killed 140,000 of the Japanese city's pre-war population of 350,000.

Earlier this year, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved its infamous Doomsday Clock forward by ten seconds to 90 seconds to midnight, and warned that humanity is now "the closest to global catastrophe it has ever been."

In an accompanying press release, the Bulletin explained that the Clock – which had remained at 100 seconds to midnight for the previous three years – was reset closer to midnight "largely (though not exclusively) because of the mounting dangers of the war in Ukraine."

"Russia's thinly veiled threats to use nuclear weapons remind the world that escalation of the conflict – by accident, intention or miscalculation – is a terrible risk," the Bulletin stated. "The possibility that the conflict could spin out of anyone's control remains high."

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