President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine was headed to the Group of 7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan, the Japanese government confirmed on Saturday, bolstered by a major shift from President Biden, who told U.S. allies that he would allow Ukrainian pilots to be trained on American-made F-16 fighter jets. Mr. Biden said he was also prepared to let other countries give F-16s to Ukraine.
Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, confirmed the shift on Saturday morning in Hiroshima.
As the G7 leaders reaffirmed their collective support of Ukraine in the face of Russia’s invasion, Mr. Zelensky on Friday welcomed the “historic decision” by Mr. Biden, and said on Twitter that he would discuss its “practical implementation” at the summit.
Mr. Zelensky was expected to address the leaders of the Group of 7 nations, who have gathered in Hiroshima, Japan, a city that was itself once leveled by war, as he seeks to marshal more military aid for his country from the leaders of the world’s wealthiest democracies. His visit was arranged after he expressed a “strong desire” to participate face to face, Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
The Ukrainian president was expected to arrive in Hiroshima on Saturday afternoon, Kyodo News reported, citing government sources. Late Friday, he departed Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where he attended the Arab League summit, the Saudi state news agency reported.
In Hiroshima, Mr. Zelensky will almost certainly meet one on one with Mr. Biden. The leaders of India, Brazil and other nations that have been reluctant to support Ukraine are also at the meeting, as observers, and Mr. Zelensky’s presence could make it more difficult for them to maintain that stance, several officials said.
The leaders gathered in Hiroshima — besides President Biden, they include the heads of government from Japan, Canada, Britain, France, Germany and Italy; and a top European Union official — will be talking over the weekend about all dimensions of Russia’s war in Ukraine. They will likely discuss the crucial question of providing the F-16 fighter jets to Kyiv and the possibility of negotiations over an armistice or peace treaty.
Mr. Biden’s decision on pilot training, which creates a pathway for supplying Ukraine with fighter jets, fulfills Mr. Zelensky’s persistent request for advanced warplanes to overcome Russian air supremacy. With its modern missiles and a powerful radar that can spot targets from hundreds of miles away, the F-16 contains classified and other highly restricted systems that the United States does not want duplicated or falling into hostile hands.
Mr. Zelensky’s trip to Japan follows his visit to Saudi Arabia on Friday, the latest stop on a flurry of his trips outside Ukraine to shore up support ahead of an anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive. In Saudi Arabia, Mr. Zelensky appealed to Arab leaders meeting there not to bend to Russian influence.
At the summit that began on Friday, the G7 leaders pledged to toughen punishments on Moscow and redouble efforts to choke off funding for its war. In his meetings with the leaders, Mr. Zelensky will have a chance to discuss the war with some of his staunchest backers: the U.S., Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Canada and Italy. The leaders of India, Brazil and other nations that have been reluctant to support Ukraine will also attend the summit, as observers.
Mr. Zelensky has increasingly demonstrated a willingness to venture out of the country, traveling to different European capitals this month to secure promises of more powerful arms to bolster a planned counteroffensive against Russia.
Mr. Zelensky will be making his appeal in a city that serves as a sobering reminder of the devastation of war, in the midst of a conflict that has at times heightened worries of a potential nuclear clash.
In a visit on Friday to Hiroshima Peace Memorial, the site of a World War II atomic bombing, G7 leaders “reiterated their position that threats by Russia of nuclear weapon use, let alone its use, are inadmissible,” Japan’s foreign ministry said in a statement.