President Volodymyr Zelensky is increasing pressure on neutral countries that have avoided taking sides in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
The Ukrainian president traveled to Japan this weekend to meet with G7 leaders at the Hiroshima summit. This will be his first visit to an Asian country since the invasion of Russia in February last year.
The New York Times reported that “President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine landed in Japan on Saturday determined to urge the world’s richest democracies to stick with him as Moscow bids the West grow weary of the cost and consequences of war.”
“Mr. Zelensky made a dramatic entrance to Hiroshima, landing on a French plane after days in which Ukrainian and Japanese officials insisted, presumably for security reasons, that he would join leaders at the Group of 7 summit only virtually.” the report continues. “He was dressed in his hooded sweatshirt, standing out from the coat-and-tie diplomatic crowd at this annual summit meeting.”
During his time there, he aims to engage with nations that some Western diplomats refer to as “swing states.” These countries, including Brazil, India and Indonesia, have not firmly aligned themselves with Ukraine in the conflict.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Indonesian President Joko Widodo are among the key figures Zelensky is targeting. These nations do not actively support Russian invasion and have a historical tradition of non-alignment dating back to the Cold War era.
These three leaders have been invited to attend the G7 summit as “partner countries” and will meet the Ukrainian president on Sunday. A G7 official, speaking on condition of anonymity, emphasized the importance of this opportunity to exchange views and recognized the need to engage with the Global South beyond Western persuasion.
In a surprise move on Friday, Zelensky’s plane made a stopover in Saudi Arabia, where he was scheduled to attend the Arab League summit. Ukraine’s top priority is to get more weapons, especially Western fighter jets like the F-16. The US has expressed its willingness to help train Ukrainian pilots to fly these warplanes.
Zelensky’s diplomatic efforts come at a critical time in the conflict, as Ukrainian forces prepare for a major counter-offensive.
Throughout this year, Ukrainian government officials have actively engaged with nations in the Global South. Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has traveled extensively in South America, Africa and the Pacific since May.
President Zelensky designated the Global South as a priority in Ukraine’s foreign relations by the end of 2022. According to the President’s representative Tamila Tasheva, Ukraine’s cooperation and partnership with the countries of the Global South will contribute to the complete isolation Russia, preventing the aggressor from regaining strength and resources to start new bloody wars.
During the G7 summit in Japan, leaders issued a joint statement pledging to crack down on evasion of sanctions targeting Russia. The statement warned that countries supporting Putin’s military would face serious consequences if they did not immediately cease such activities.
In addition, the EU is considering imposing sanctions on Chinese companies for their involvement in supplying Russia with dual-use goods that have ended up on the battlefields of Ukraine. The G7 countries emphasized their commitment to starve Russia of G7 technology, industrial equipment and services that support its war efforts.
“We will starve Russia of G7 technology, industrial equipment and services that support its war machine,” the G7 countries said in the statement on Friday.
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