Biden said Zelenskyy gave ‘flat assurance’ he won't use F-16s in Russia: Ukraine live updates

President Joe Biden said Sunday that Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy assured him personally he won’t use F-16 fighter jets to attack Russian territory.

“I have a flat assurance from Zelenskyy that they will not, they will not use it to go on and move into Russian geographic territory,” Biden said at a news conference in Hiroshima, Japan.

Biden told Group of Seven leaders Friday the U.S. would assist with training Ukrainian pilots on modern fighter aircraft, including American-made F-16s, in a possible signal that Washington is closer to arming Ukraine with the planes. Zelenskyy met with Biden and other world leaders in Japan on Sunday. Ukraine is expected to mount a counteroffensive this spring against Russian troops.

“The expectation and hope is that they will be successful,” Biden said, declining to elaborate on details discussed with Zelenskyy about the counteroffensive.

Ukraine has repeatedly asked its Western allies to supply it with modern jets to fight back against Russia. Many have been reluctant to do so out of concern for being drawn into the war and that the conflict could spill into NATO territory. Biden said it is “highly unlikely” the F-16s will be used as part of Ukraine’s upcoming counteroffensive but would be used later if the war continues.


◾ Biden announced a new military aid package worth $375 million for Ukraine, including ammunition and armored vehicles.

◾ On his nightly video address, taped on the plane as he returned from the G7 summit, Zelenskyy told his countrymen: "The world hears our position. Protection and security guarantees, the return of all our territories, all our people, justice, the implementation of our Peace Formula.''

◾ The Ukraine military said it struck the Russian headquarters in the occupied city of Berdiansk in the Zaporizhzhia province early Sunday morning. The number of casualties is unclear.

◾ In retaliation for the International Criminal Court issuing warrants in March for the arrest of Russian President Vladimir Putin and children’s rights official Maria Lvova-Belova, the Russian Investigative Committee on Sunday filed criminal charges in absentia against an ICC prosecutor and three judges, the state-owned Tass news agency said.

◾ The missile barrages Russia has launched this month at several Ukrainian regions, which were mostly deflected, primarily intended to wear down Ukraine's air defenses, the British Defense Ministry said in its latest war assessment.

Confusion as Zelenskyy appears to confirm loss of Bakhmut

Zelenskyy walked back comments Sunday that appeared to confirm earlier Russian claims that its forces captured the symbolically significant city of Bakhmut following months of intense fighting.

"I think not," Ukraine's leader said after being asked by a reporter whether Ukraine still controlled the eastern city that has been under siege for eight months. "But you have to understand that there is nothing, They’ve destroyed everything. There are no buildings. It’s a pity. It’s tragedy.”

Zelenskyy made the comments while speaking alongside Biden during an appearance on the final day of the G7 summit. However, Zelenskyy's office later denied that Russia captured the city. It said his comments were a reference to the complete destruction of Bakhmut. Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar went as far as saying Ukrainian troops “took the city in a semi-encirclement.”

Speaking in Ukrainian, Zelenskyy later said, "Bakhmut is not occupied by the Russian Federation as of today.”

Bakhmut has been the site of the longest and likely the bloodiest battle of the war. An estimated 20,000-30,000 Russian troops have died fighting there and Ukraine has also suffered heavy losses, though the numbers are unclear.

Biden, during a news conference later Sunday, seemed unsure about the status of Bakhmut but said the toll on Russia has been damaging regardless.

- Kim Hjelmgaard, USA TODAY

Latest from G-7 summit:Confusion as Ukraine's Zelenskyy appears to confirm loss of Bakhmut

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is seen in a motorcade vehicle on his way to attend the Group of Seven (G7) nations' meetings Saturday in Hiroshima, western Japan.

G7 summit ends with Ukraine in focus as Zelenskyy meets world leaders

Zelenskyy huddled with some of his biggest backers as the G7 summit closed Sunday, building momentum for his country’s war effort.

The Ukrainian leader’s in-person appearance in his trademark olive drab underscored the centrality of the war for the G7 bloc of rich democracies. It also stole much of the limelight from other priorities, including security challenges in Asia and outreach to the developing world, that the leaders focused on at the three-day gathering.

Hosting Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the group was committed to “strong backing for Ukraine from every possible dimension.”

Japanese atomic bomb survivors worry Zelenskyy's visit overshadows their message

Zelenskyy’s last-minute participation at the summit brought intense global attention to Russia’s invasion of his nation but also worried atomic bomb survivors, who said the high-profile visit overshadowed a rare chance to push world leaders to focus on nuclear abolishment.

Zelenskyy’s inclusion at the G7 gathering of the richest democracies – and his pursuit of more weapons and other support for Ukraine, rather than a diplomatic pursuit to end the war – sends the wrong message, activists and victims said.

“Zelenskyy’s visit is not appropriate for Hiroshima, which is a peace-loving city,” said Etsuko Nakatani, an activist whose parents survived the Hiroshima atomic bombing in 1945.

Many Hiroshima residents hope that understanding the city’s tragic past will push leaders to “take up the abolition of nuclear weapons as an urgent political issue, not an ideal,” she said. “But support for nuclear deterrence has persisted, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine seems to have justified it further.”

Zelenskyy visited Hiroshima's atomic bomb museum, which he said made him teary-eyed. While noting it wouldn't be fair to compare the two tragedies, he also told reporters, "I'll tell you openly, photographs of ruined Hiroshima absolutely remind me of Bakhmut and other similar settlements. Nothing left alive, all the buildings ruined."

African peace mission has ambitious agenda

The separate peace talks the Ukrainian and Russian leaders have agreed to host with an African delegation will feature more than discussions on how to end the war.

One of the sticking points in the Black Sea grain deal − how to pay heavily sanctioned Russia for the fertilizer exports Africa desperately needs − will also be on the negotiating table, a key mediator told The Associated Press. The agreement has helped prevent a global food crisis, but Russia has repeatedly threatened to pull out amid complaints that sanctions are hampering its ability to sell its fertilizer.

Jean-Yves Ollivier, an international negotiator who has been working for six months to put the talks together, said the leaders of six African nations who make up the delegation would also discuss the related issue of easing the passage of more grain shipments out of Ukraine during the war. They will also talk about the possibility of more prisoner swaps when they travel to Moscow and Kyiv next month on what they’ve characterized as a peace mission.

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