Zelenskyy and Trudeau meet face-to-face at G7 in Japan
'I want to thank you, your government, also Canadian people for supporting us,' Ukraine president says
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met Volodymyr Zelenskyy early Sunday on the margins of the Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima, Japan, where the leaders of the world's leading democratic economies heard a dramatic in-person appeal from the Ukrainian president to remain united in the face of the ongoing war with Russia — and to continue arming his country.
Trudeau and Zelenskyyy embraced and exchanged words of support and appreciation.
It was one of a series of whirlwind meetings for the Ukrainian leader as he tries to solidify international support for his country ahead of a planned counteroffensive to drive Russian troops out of his country.
Trudeau told Zelenskyy that Canada stands with Ukraine.
"We talk every few weeks. It's so nice to see you in person," Trudeau said. "It's so nice to be able to actually talk directly like this."
'I want to thank you'
For his part, Zelenskyy was gracious and appreciative.
"It's good to see you," Zelenskyy told Trudeau after a handshake and hug. "I want to thank you, your government, also Canadian people for supporting us."
Zelenskyy briefed Trudeau and the other leaders about the situation on the ground and what his country's "immediate" military and financial needs are ahead of the renewed push to drive Russian forces out of the eastern and southern regions of his country.
"We talked about the situation on the ground," said Trudeau, who added that he saw a "solid commitment" from the non-aligned countries, such as India and Brazil, for the principles of the United Nations charter, which was intended to prevent wars like the one that is consuming Eastern Europe.
The latest federal budget contained no additional cash for military aid for Ukraine, beyond what has already been spent. Trudeau did not rule out further donations of military hardware on Sunday.
He also did not rule contributing — in some manner — to an allied program involving the British and Americans that would see Ukrainian pilots trained in F-16s. The Canadian military does not fly that type of warplane but it could potentially offer instruction to brand new military pilots, those just learning to get their wings.
The G7 host, Japan, has said including Zelenskyy came following the "strong wish" of the Ukrainian president to be at the table with the nations that will influence his country's defence against Russia and eventual reconstruction.
"Japan. G7. Important meetings with partners and friends of Ukraine. Security and enhanced cooperation for our victory. Peace will become closer today," Zelenskyy tweeted following his arrival Saturday aboard a French government jet.
While Ukraine was the overwhelming focus of the summit, G7 leaders also worked to address global concerns over climate change, artificial intelligence, poverty, economic instability and nuclear proliferation.
The final communiqué — at Canada's insistence — called out China, demanding Beijing respect diplomatic norms and not politically interfere in other countries.
India's PM prepared to help
Zelenskyy met with Narendra Modi late Saturday, where he invited the Indian prime minister to be part of the peace process. It was, according to an international expert, a critical pitch, strategic pitch, one that could pay dividends, if Modi chooses to accept.
During their meeting Modi told Zelenskyy that he was prepared to help. "I wish to assure you that India and I, in my personal capacity, will do whatever is possible to find a solution to this (conflict)," he was quoted as saying by the Indian media.
India, which is heavily reliant on Russian military equipment and energy, is seen as a possible lever to get Moscow to the negotiating table.
The meeting with Modi was central, said Tristen Naylor, an expert in international summits and diplomacy with Cambridge University in the U.K.
"India sees itself as a country on the rise and Narendra Modi holds the presidency of the G20 this year," he said.
"This could be a crowning legacy for him, as the leader of India heading into re-election leave next year as the chair of the G 20. Teasing that status of being the key in changing the strategic balance with respect to Ukraine is really what could change things here."
While Zelenskyy was meeting with world leaders, the Russian defence ministry and the head of the Russian Wagner mercenary force claimed that Bakhmut — the Ukrainian town that has been the scene of the costly and likely the most deadly battle of the war — had fallen to Russian forces.
The head of Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said in a Telegram post that the city came under complete Russian control around midday Saturday.
Ukraine's military command denied the claim.
Russian claims a distraction, Zelenskyy adviser says
A few hours later and using the Soviet-era name for the city, the Russian defence ministry said: "The assault teams of the Wagner private military company with the support of artillery and aviation of the southern battlegroup has completed the liberation of the city of Artyomovsk."
Mykhailo Podolyak, a Zelenskyy adviser, also denied the Wagner claim, saying, "It is not the first time Prigozhin has said 'We seized everything and are dominating.'"
He suggested that the Wagner chief's statement was aimed at drawing attention away from Zelenskyy's recent highly visible trips overseas, including the G7 summit.
The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War, which has tracked the fighting in Ukraine daily, quoted Ukraine's deputy defence minister Hanna Malyar as saying Ukrainian forces continue to hold positions near the city's MiG-17 monument.
The organization added that if Prigozhin's claim is true, the seizure is merely "symbolic" because Ukrainian forces continue to pressure and push back Russian troops on the northern and southern flanks of Bakhmut.
"The last few urban blocks of eastern Bakhmut that Prigozhin claimed that Wagner Group forces captured are not tactically or operationally significant," the institute said in its nightly update.