Zelenskyy arrives at G-7; Ukraine denies Wagner chief claim Russia controls Bakhmut: Live updates

 Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrived in Japan on Saturday to attend the G-7 summit, a gathering of leaders of the world's most powerful democracies.

“Japan. G7. Important meetings with partners and friends of Ukraine. Security and enhanced cooperation for our victory. Peace will become closer today,” Zelenskyy tweeted after arriving.

President Joe Biden and Zelenskyy will meet directly Sunday in Hiroshima, Japan during the summit, U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said.

In a joint statement, G-7 leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union denounced the Russian invasion of Ukraine and vowed to intensify pressure for peace.

“Russia’s brutal war of aggression represents a threat to the whole world in breach of fundamental norms, rules and principles of the international community. We reaffirm our unwavering support for Ukraine for as long as it takes to bring a comprehensive, just and lasting peace,” the group said.

G-7 leaders also urged China to pressure Russia to end the war in Ukraine.

BIDEN AT SUMMIT:Biden says U.S. can avoid default and raise debt ceiling at G-7 summit in Japan

This handout picture provided by the official Saudi Press Agency SPA shows Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy greeting Saudi officials next to the Deputy Emir of Mecca, Prince Badr bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, right, in Jeddah on May 19, 2023.


∙ Star basketball player Brittney Griner made her WNBA season debut on Friday after being jailed in Russia. Before the game, Phoenix coach Vanessa Nygaard announced how many days Griner had been jailed before she was freed in December as part of a high-profile prisoner swap. "Today is a day of joy," Nygaard said.

∙ Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced a travel ban for 500 Americans, including former President Barack Obama, several senators and White House staff members. The list also includes late-night TV hosts such as Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers.

∙ The Russian government rejected for a second time a request from U.S. officials to visit Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who has been detained in Russia since his arrest in March, the Wall Street Journal announced on Friday. Gershkovich was jailed on espionage charged during a reporting trip − allegations his employer and the U.S. government have denied. The U.S. has declared Gershkovich wrongfully detained.

∙ In a Friday speech at the Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia, Zelenskyy urged Arab nations to help secure the release of Ukrainians in Russian detention and to "to help protect our people, including the Ukrainian Muslim community."

Russian Wagner chief claims control of Bakhmut; Ukraine officials say 'not true'

The head of the Russian private army Wagner claimed Russian forces had taken control of the city of Bakhmut on Saturday after more than 200 days of fighting in the area. But Ukrainian officials have denied the claim, saying fighting continues in the longest battle of the war.

In a video posted on Telegram, Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin said Bakhmut came under complete Russian control at about midday Saturday.

But Ukrainian deputy defense minister Hanna Maliar said heavy fighting was continuing.

"The situation is critical," she said. "As of now, our defenders, control certain industrial and infrastructure facilities in this area."

Serhiy Cherevatyi, spokesman for Ukraine's eastern command, told the Associated Press that the claim Russia has taken control of the city "is not true."

"Our units are fighting in Bakhmut," Cherevatyi said.

Remains of Marine veteran killed in Ukraine flown home to US

The remains of a U.S. Marine veteran who went missing in Ukraine in 2022 were flown home to the U.S. on Friday

Friday evening, a Turkish Airlines plane carrying the body of retired Marine Capt. Grady Kurpasi landed at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. The remains will be taken by private jet to Kurpasi's hometown of Wilmington, North Carolina

"There is an unspoken bond between those who serve in uniform,” said Weatherman Foundation President Meghan Mobbs, who led the effort to retrieve Kurpasi's remains. "If you give your life in combat, your fellow Americans will bear any burden to bring you home."

A 50-year-old Iraq War veteran, Kurpasi volunteered to help evacuate Ukrainian residents in February 2022, then went on to fight in the Ukrainian Foreign Legion. He was declared dead last month by the U.S. State Department.

US won't oppose allies providing Ukraine with F-16 jets, report says

The Biden administration on Friday announced its support for training Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets and eventually helping provide the jets to Ukraine.

The announcement comes after the administration has resisted calls from the Ukrainian government to provide it with the fighter jets.

Permission to export the American-made planes to a third country is required because they contain sensitive technology.

“We’ve reached a moment where it is time to look down the road again to say what is Ukraine going to need as part of a future force, to be able to deter and defend against Russian aggression as we go forward,” U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said.

Zelenskyy has been lobbying for the warplanes and found a receptive audience in prime ministers Rishi Sunak of Britain and Mark Rutte of the Netherlands, who on Tuesday agreed to put together an international coalition to procure the jets and train Ukrainian pilots. The Dutch have said they would be open to exporting the planes.

Contributing: The Associated Press; John Bacon and Jorge L. Ortiz, USA TODAY

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