How Zelensky highlighted the G7 summit to confront doubters in Ukraine

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida closed the G7 summit with the skeleton of Hiroshima’s A-Bomb Dome with a call for global peace and a world without nuclear weapons, after being disrupted by Volodymyr Zelensky’s performance.

Just a few weeks earlier, Kishida thought it was “too big of a hurdle” for the Ukrainian president to attend the gathering in person. But Zelensky was determined to visit Asia for the first time since the Russian invasion began, according to people involved in the preparations.

Whether coincidental or intentional, the timing of Zelensky’s arrival in Hiroshima offered a rare opportunity to meet—or ambush—leaders from the non-G7 nations of Brazil and India, two developing powers that have ties to Moscow.

Japanese and European officials said it was also the perfect environment to drum up support for Ukraine’s plans to end the war, which compete with rival proposals from China and others that seek a cease-fire without calling for a full Russian withdrawal.

“By having President Zelensky attend the talks in Hiroshima, we were able to send an urgent message that the threat of nuclear weapons cannot be changed by force from the status quo and, more importantly, that these weapons must never be used. Kishida said.

When Zelensky joined the G7 leaders’ meeting on Sunday, some speakers, including French President Emmanuel Macron, suggested drafting a “joint statement” to get the group fully behind the Ukraine peace plan.

What one diplomat called the “Hiroshima Peace Principles” would have been at odds with the Chinese alternative and other proposals put forward by various parties. The intention was to make it clear that the G7 was in a closed position and to make their invited guests, not least India and Brazil, aware of this.

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“We are here in the City of Peace and as such it is a very good place to discuss the possibility of peace [in Ukraine]” said an official of the European Commission at the summit.

Fumio Kishida, left, and Volodymyr Zelensky lay wreaths at the cenotaph for the victims of the atomic bomb in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park © Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs/AFP/Getty Images

But as the summit drew to a close, plans to make a statement fell through. However, his main messages were nevertheless broadcast. In his press conference, Kishida outlined four principles that participants agreed on, including the importance of the UN Charter and the rule of law, and achieving the original goal of projecting solidarity with Ukraine.

“This war is not just European,” Macron told reporters ahead of Sunday’s talks. “This is an opportunity to discuss, exchange and convince partners about the enlarged G7. . . India, Brazil, Indonesia and many other southern countries that sometimes did not exchange so much with Ukraine.”

“This will allow Zelensky to express himself in front of world powers, who are sometimes subject to a single discourse,” Macron added, referring to the upcoming summit of the Brics countries of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

After Zelensky’s arrival on Saturday, he held bilateral talks with G7 members and the leaders of India and South Korea.

“The ongoing war in Ukraine is a huge problem for the whole world. India and I will do everything to find a solution,” said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with Zelensky by his side.

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It was the first time the two leaders had met since Russia invaded all of Ukraine last February. Modi, who sat next to Zelensky in the final session of the summit, greeted the Ukrainian leader with a warm handshake and joked with him as members of the press were ushered out.

Later at the summit table, Modi also called for reform of the United Nations, noting that the organization has been unable to take effective action because Russia is a member of the Security Council, according to officials who witnessed the talks.

India’s Narendra Modi greets Volodymyr Zelensky in Hiroshima © Presidential Press Service of Ukraine/AFP/Getty Images

The meeting with Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva proved to be more difficult. Zelensky eventually left Japan without speaking directly to Lula, the leader who rolled out the red carpet for Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during his visit to Brazil.

Asked if he was disappointed that the meeting did not take place, Zelensky said: “I think he [Lula] he should be disappointed.” Macron even personally begged Lula to attend the meeting, according to a person briefed on their conversation.

But several Brazilian officials disputed the notion that Lula had turned down the meeting, saying it was simply a scheduling conflict. According to one, Lula agreed to the meeting on Sunday, at the time requested by Ukraine. The Brazilian team even placed a Ukrainian flag in the Ana Crowne Plaza Hotel room where the two leaders can meet. “We were available,” the Brazilian official said.

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Despite differences in anti-war stances between countries, Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown, who was also invited to the summit, said all participants agreed to respect the rule of law.

“The amount of aid provided to Ukraine naturally varies from country to country. . . but solidarity in supporting Ukraine against the Russian invasion was a common message,” Brown told the Financial Times. “Today we saw conflict in Europe. And we don’t want it to turn into a nuclear conflict. And Hiroshima reminded us of the price we paid,” he added.

Kori Schake, director of foreign and defense policy at the American Enterprise Institute, said Zelenskyy’s presence was important from a US domestic and international perspective.

“It is critical that we comfort the Ukrainians as they fight, show Russia how much they support Ukraine, reinforce aid pledges, and show recalcitrant Republicans in Congress that withholding further aid will not only harm Ukraine, but the US leadership as well. ” he said.

After laying flowers in memory of at least 80,000 people who died after the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945, Zelensky said photos of the city’s destruction echoed those of Bakhmut and other Ukrainian towns destroyed by Moscow’s invasion.

“Our dream is to win this war and create peace,” Zelensky said. “That is why it is important to strive for solidarity with Ukraine in Hiroshima.”

More reporting by Michael Pooler in São Paulo