Britain’s support for Ukraine will “never waver”, Rishi Sunak has pledged after meeting Volodymyr Zelensky at the G7 summit in Hiroshima.
The Prime Minister said he was glad the group of allies have agreed on the importance of providing the Ukrainian president with the advanced military equipment he needs as he pushes for F-16 fighter jets.
Mr Zelensky will address the leaders of the major western democracies during meetings on Sunday.
He is on course to receive the boost of being donated advanced jets after US president Joe Biden authorised western allies to transfer them to Kyiv.
Mr Sunak updated Mr Zelensky on the “very positive progress” on fighter jets when they met in the Japanese city, Downing Street said.
In a statement, 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 over freedom and sovereignty.
“From providing Challenger tanks to long-range missiles and pilot training, 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 pair shared a warm informal meeting on Saturday after Mr Zelensky landed in Japan.
“Good to see you,” the Prime Minister said, slapping him on the back after they greeted each other with an embrace. “You made it.”
Asked by reporters if it was a good day for Ukraine, Mr Zelensky smiled, nodded and said “thank you so much”.
Mr Zelensky tweeted: “Peace will become closer today.”
G7 leaders vowed to support Ukraine for “as long as it takes” and to increase the costs to Russia and those who support its war.
They also used their joint statement to be critical of China, saying they remain “seriously concerned” about the aggression shown towards Taiwan.
Giving an account of Mr Sunak’s meeting with the Ukrainian leader, No 10 said: “The Prime Minister updated President Zelensky on the very positive progress at the G7 so far, including new sanctions against Russia and the provision of fighter jets.
“The leaders looked forward to progressing talks with G7 countries and other partners on support for Ukraine and action against Russia’s destabilising and illegal behaviour.”
Ukraine, we’re not going anywhere.#G7
🇬🇧 🤝 🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/3GL2iWuyy2
— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) May 20, 2023
Moscow warned that the “escalation” carries “enormous risks” for the countries involved.
Russian deputy foreign minister Alexander Grushko told the Tass news agency: “We can see that Western countries continue to stick to an escalation scenario, which carries enormous risks for them.
“In any case, we will take it into account when making plans.
“We have all the necessary means to achieve our goals.”
Mr Biden informed his allies at the conference in Hiroshima that he will give legal authorisation to allow the American-made planes to be donated to Kyiv.
The US president, who is attending the G7 with other members France, Italy, Germany, Japan and Canada, as well as the EU, also announced training for Ukrainian pilots.
The Prime Minister welcomed the decision, having pressed allies to provide the Ukrainian president with the jets he has been calling for.
Mr Sunak tweeted: “Ukraine, we’re not going anywhere.”
The RAF does not have any US-manufactured F-16s. Washington must legally approve their export.
Mr Zelensky met India’s Narendra Modi on Saturday and will potentially come into contact with Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Both have not supported Ukraine like their western allies.
Neither are G7 members, but India is being represented at the summit because it is the current G20 chair, while Brazil has been invited as a guest.
Mr Sunak will meet Mr Modi on Sunday before addressing the media at a press conference.