Zelenskiy calls on G7 leaders to help end war in Ukraine by winter

·6 min read
<span>Photograph: Reuters</span>
Photograph: Reuters

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has urged G7 leaders gathered in Germany to help end the war in Ukraine by the winter as they planned new economic measures against Russia and vowed to “stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes”.

A six-page communique from the group of seven industrialised countries – the US, UK, Canada, Japan, Germany, France and Italy – said it was “committed to helping Ukraine to end Russia’s war … to defend itself and to choose its future”. It said it would provide materials, training, logistics, intelligence and economic support.

Leaders of the G7 met Zelenskiy via video in a closed-door session as they gathered in Schloss Elmau, deep in the Bavarian Alps. Meanwhile, scores of civilians were feared killed or wounded in a Russian missile strike on a crowded shopping centre in Ukraine’s central city of Kremenchuk.

Zelenskiy told the leaders not to let the conflict in his country “drag on over winter”, adding: “If Ukraine wins, you all win.”

And in a sign he was not willing to back down and accept a peace deal that gave up swathes of Ukraine to Russia, the president said: “We will only negotiate from a position of strength.”

Zelenskiy said it was important for Ukraine that there was a coherent position from the G7 countries on sanctions, saying: “These must be further strengthened by limiting the price of oil exported by the aggressor.”

French sources said Zelenskiy was seeking arms “so that Ukraine can contain the advance of Russia and push the Russians beyond the February lines”.

The US national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, described the two-hour discussion as a chance to discuss how to turn the battlefield to Ukraine’s advantage, and prevent a grinding conflict.

Following reports the US will provide Ukraine with NASAMS, an “advanced medium- to long-range surface-to-air missile defence system”, Sullivan said: “I can confirm that we are, in fact, in the process of finalising a package that includes advanced air defence capabilities.”

It would be part of a package including ammunition for artillery and counter-battery radar systems. Overall, he said the US was now providing a total of $7.5bn (£6.1bn) in economic assistance each month. The proposed air defence system critical to help defend big cities such as Kyiv will be one of many pledges of military support being offered to Ukraine, either at the G7 or at the subsequent Nato defence summit in Madrid.

Sullivan said a consensus was emerging at the G7 that a cap on the price of Russian oil was “a serious method” of depriving Russia of revenue and stabilising the global energy market. Admitting that the proposal was a “novel concept” and a dramatic step that needed further technical work, he said the aim was to reduce the perverse effect of Russian oil exports being cut, but its revenues rising due to higher prices. He predicted the cap could be “one of the more significant outcomes of a G7 summit in recent years”.

Germany is sceptical that the plan is workable and doubts if it would win sufficient support.

The differences did not prevent the G7 agreeing a broader communique on Ukraine that included tough language calling for a full Russian withdrawal. It said: “We reiterate our demand that Russia put an end to this war of choice, and immediately, unconditionally cease all hostilities and withdraw its troops and military equipment from the entire territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders.”

It said it was up to Ukraine to decide on a future peace settlement, free from external pressure or influence, but that the group stood ready to support an international reconstruction plan, drawn up and implemented by Ukraine in coordination with partners.

On sanctions, it said: “We are determined to reduce Russia’s revenues, including those from gold. We will continue our targeted use of coordinated sanctions for as long as necessary, acting in unison at every stage.”

Promising no impunity for war crimes, it called on Russia to “immediately allow the safe return of Ukrainian nationals taken often with force to Russia without their consent”.

On the increasingly urgent problem of how to move Ukrainian grain being blockaded by Russia, one idea discussed at the summit, a UK source said, was a Dunkirk evacuation-style idea of seeking smaller-scale methods such as trucks and canal boats, rather than relying purely on container ships.

In his overnight address delivered before his video linkup to the G7, Zelenskiy called for more ammunition. “Partners should proceed more quickly if they are really our partners and not just observers … Any restriction is in reality an invitation to Russia to strike again and again,” he said.

Ukraine claims that on Saturday alone 62 Russian rockets and missiles hit the country, including from the territory of Belarus. The southern port of Odesa was struck overnight and, hours before the G7 summit opened, the capital, Kyiv, was hit by its first strike since early June, in what was taken as a brutal message of defiance.

The UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, said the Russian attack on Kremenchuk, and the previous day on Kyiv, would simply “strengthen the resolve” of G7 leaders. A UK government source said that when Johnson heard about the Kyiv strike, he told fellow leaders it was “stupid of Putin to do something like that when all of us are in the same place because it is only going to make us feel more resolute and united”.

The US missile defence briefings did not clarify when Ukraine would receive the system, the degree of training required and to what extent it would receive the corresponding missiles. The US has to balance the need to show its commitment to the Ukrainian cause with a degree of military secrecy.

The long-awaited American Himars missile system is already on the Ukrainian frontline and being used to attack convoys of Russian equipment.

Johnson has been sending out ever fiercer warnings in advance of the summit discussion on Ukraine that Putin is poised to get away with the annexation of the country. The UK prime minister has refrained from criticising Germany in public, pointing to the extent of the German psychological journey from one of near pacifism to a preparedness to provide weaponry to Ukraine.

The weekend fall of Sievierodonetsk after the city was reduced to rubble by airstrikes and artillery barrages appeared to make Johnson’s point that Putin was making faster military progress towards his key objectives than at any point in the war.

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