G7 Summit in Hiroshima, Japan G7 Summit in Hiroshima, Japan 

Russia warns of "colossal risks" if West supplies jets to Ukraine

Russia has warned the West of "colossal risks" if it supplies Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets. The warning came after the United States announced it would allow its allies to deliver the military planes to Ukraine.

By Stefan J. Bos 

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak embraced Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the Group of Seven or G7 summit in Hiroshima, the Japanese city once destroyed by a U.S. nuclear bomb at the end of World War Two.

Saying "Good to see you" and "You made it," Sunak briefly slapped the back of Zelensky, who told reporters it had been a good day for Ukraine. 

He officially learned at the G7 that the United States would allow allies to give fighter jets to Ukraine, including F-16s, in a significant boost to Kyiv.

White House National Security Adviser Jack Sullivan confirmed the upcoming deliveries to reporters without providing a clear timeline amid security concerns. "As the training [of fighter pilots] 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," he added.  

In response, Russia warned that Western countries would run "colossal risks" if they supplied Ukraine with F-16s. In recent days, Moscow has already hit the country with a barrage of missiles and drones. 

And on Saturday, the head of Russia's Wagner group of mercenaries claimed his forces took complete control of the devastated city of Bakhmut in the east, but Kyiv claimed fighting continued. 

Zelensky arrived at the G7 following a brief trip to Saudi Arabia, where he told Arab States to realize that most people who suffer from the Russian occupation of Crimea are Muslims, referring to the Tatar community. 

Arab leaders 

He urged the Arab leaders to help Ukraine free the peninsula and other regions and support Kyiv's efforts to end the war. Zelensky praised Saudi Arabia for its offer to mediate in the armed conflict. "We already have a positive experience with Saudi Arabia regarding the release of our people captured by Russia," he explained. "We can expand this experience."

Saudi Arabia pledged $400m in aid to Ukraine earlier this year and has voted in favor of United Nations resolutions calling on Russia to end its invasion and refrain from annexing Ukrainian territory.

However, in his speech to the Arab League, a regional organization of the Arab world, Zelensky also noted that "even if there are people here at the summit who have a different view on the war in our land, calling it a conflict, I am sure that we can all be united in saving people from the cases of Russian prisons."

However, he also stressed, "Unfortunately, there are some in the world and here among you who turn a blind eye to those cages and illegal annexations."  

Zelensky indirectly referred to Syria, which openly supports Russia's invasion, and Iran, which delivered "kamikaze" or "killer" drones to Russia used in Ukraine.

At the G7, where he later arrived, leaders agreed on more military support to Ukraine while admitting that what they called "Russia's war of aggression" had caused an energy crisis. 

In a final declaration, they clarified that they would achieve a common goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 by speeding up the use and search of clean energy. 

U.S. apology 

After the G7, U.S. President Joe Biden was to travel to Australia. 

But he apologized to Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese for not traveling there as he had to rush back home to oversee budget talks and prevent the first U.S. default in its history.

"I truly apologize to you for having you come here rather than me being in Australia right now," he told the Australian leader sitting next to him in Hiroshima. "But we have a thing going on at home right now, and I've got to pay attention to that." 

In response, Albanese told Biden: "I was saddened that you were unable to come down next week, but I understand the circumstances that you're dealing with, and I would have done exactly the same thing." 

He added: "All politics is local, as you and I both understand."

Albanese briefly dropped a paper on the ground before shaking Biden's hand that was already reached out to him with the U.S. president saying: "All politics may be local, but our friendship is permanent." "Absolutely," said Albanese. 

Both leaders later expanded their friendship with a climate, critical minerals, and energy agreement.

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20 May 2023, 17:50