Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky conceded on Sunday that Russian mercenaries won the city of Bakhmut but said it has been reduced to rubble with ‘nothing left of it’ but ‘a lot of dead Russians.’
In his one-on-one meeting with President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the G7, Zelensky said: ‘Bakhmut is only in our hearts. There is nothing.’
‘You have to understand there is nothing left of it. They destroyed it,’ he noted, adding there was nothing there ‘but a lot of dead Russians.
The eight-month battle for the eastern city was the longest and likely the bloodiest of the war.
While Zelensky was in Japan to meet with G7 leaders, Russia upped its war campaign in the Ukraine. The Wagner mercenary group and the national army focused their fire on the city of Bakhmut and declared victory there. And Russian President Vladimir Putin offered his congratulations to the mercenaries on their victory.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky (left) and President Joe Biden take part in a bilateral meeting during the G7 summit
The now largely-destroyed city is not a strategically important location for Russia, but Ukraine poured large amounts of resources in defending it.
Western estimates say between 20,000 and 30,000 Russian troops have been killed or wounded in Bakhmut, while Ukraine’s military has also suffered heavily.
Meanwhile, Biden, in his sitdown with Zelensky, announced a new round of aid for the embattled nation as it fights off Putin’s forces.
He said the ‘next tranche of US factories which includes more ammunition, artillery, vehicles. And the United States continues to help Ukraine respond, recover and rebuild. We’re also supporting peace.’
‘We have Ukraine´s back and we´re not going anywhere,’ Biden said.
Zelensky thanked Biden for the support.
‘We are very thankful. We will never forget. Thank you,’ he said.
The Ukrainian president was holding two major rounds of meetings Sunday, one with G7 leaders only and a second with the group and a host of invited guests including India, South Korea and Brazil.
He also held one-on-one talks with Biden, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other leaders.
Earlier in the day, Biden wrapped his arm around Zelensky in a show of support ahead of their one-on-one meeting as the Ukrainian president met with leaders at the G7.
Russian mercenaries declared victory in the city of Bakhmut
Ukrainian servicemen fire a BM-21 Grad multiple launch rocket system towards Russian troops attacking Bakhmut
President Joe Biden puts an arm around Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky
Zelensky addressed the summit on Sunday, asking for diplomatic and military support in his campaign to end the Russian invasion of his country.
Ahead of his remarks, he held a photo spray with the heads of state. In a striking contrast, the leaders of the world’s wealthiest democracies wore suits and ties; while Zelensky wore his signature military greens.
The heads of state were eager to show their support, taking time to chat with Zelensky after the photo was complete. Biden put his arm around Zelensky’s shoulder as the leaders left the room.
The stakes are high for the Ukrainian president, who needs the military might, economic muscle and cold hard cash of Western allies to expel Russian President Vladimir Putin and his forces from his country.
Zelensky hit the ground running on Saturday, his first day at the summit.
He landed in Hiroshima in the afternoon and jumped straight into a series of meetings, including with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and European leaders.
Zelensky arrived in Japan shortly after Biden reversed course and gave European allies the green light to send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine in its battle against Russia.
The embattled war president said the jets would not help the war effort immediately, but the decision was ‘great.’
‘I’m very happy,’ he said Saturday at the summit. ‘It really will help our society, our people to save houses, families.’
Zelensky, who made his furthest foray from Kyiv since Russia’s invasion began 15 months ago, arrived on a French plane at the heavily guarded Hiroshima airport. He also met with French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni at the G7 summit site.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky (enter) poses with G7 leaders for a family photo
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky arrives at Hiroshima Airport on Saturday
Zelensky is seen through the airport fence as he gets into his motorcade
President Biden and President Zelensky will hold a one-on-one meeting at the G7 on Sunday
Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin (pictured) claimed his forces have full control Bakhmut – which Kyiv denies – in a video recorded in front of destroyed buildings as explosions are heard in the distance
Zelensky had a busy schedule his first day at the G7 summit.
For Zelensky and Modi, it was their first in-person meeting since Russia invaded the Ukraine some 15 months ago.
India has close ties to Russia – it is a major purchaser of Russian weapons and Russia crude oil, which is helping to fund Putin’s war. And while Modi’s government has sent humanitarian aid to Ukraine, it has abstained from UN resolutions calling for Russia’s withdrawal and condemning the invasion.
Before he arrived at the G7, Zelensky stopped in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to address the Arab League Summit. In his remarks, he accused some Arab leaders of ignoring the horrors of Russia’s invasion of his country.
‘Unfortunately, there are some in the world and here, among you, who turn a blind eye to those cages and illegal annexations,’ he said, urging them to ‘take an honest look’ at the war.
Ahead of Zelensky’s arrival, Biden, facing pressure from Europe to help Ukraine end the conflict, agreed to allow European countries with F-16s to transfer some of the war planes to the embattled nation.
‘President Biden informed his G7 counterparts the United States will support the joint effort to train Ukrainian pilots on fourth generation fighter aircraft including F-16s,’ National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Saturday.
‘Over the past few months we and our allies and partners have really focused on providing Ukraine with the system’s weapons and training needs to be able to conduct effective offensive operations this spring,’ he said.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi
kraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky met with Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (left) and Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni (right) at the G7
President Zelensky met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Sunday
President Volodymyr Zelensky travels in a motorcade as he arrives at the G7 summit
The plane carrying Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky makes its decent
Ukraine is planning a massive counter offensive to retake its territory and attempt to drive out Putin’s forces. But the delivery of F-16s – and the training to operate them – will take months.
‘I welcome the historic decision of the United States and @POTUS to support an international fighter jet coalition. This will greatly enhance our army in the sky,’ Zelensky wrote on Twitter.
Zelensky was in Europe this week to meet with leaders from France, Italy, the United Kingdom and Germany to shore up alliances and ask for more aid.
Early in the conflict Biden had resisted sending the advanced military fighter plans to Ukraine out of fears they would use it to strike into the heart of Russia, provoking the Kremlin to expand the conflict outside of Ukraine’s borders.
But several European countries have F-16s in their arsenals in wanted to send them to Kyiv but need American permission to give them to a third-party because of the advanced U.S. technology on the planes.
Sullivan argued ‘nothing has changed. Our approach to the provision of weapons, material, training to the Ukrainians has followed the exigencies of the conflict.’
‘Now that we have delivered everything we said we were going to deliver,’ he added, ‘we put the Ukrainians in a position to make progress on the battlefield through the counter offensive.’
President Zelensky with French President Emmanuel Macron
Japan roled out the red carpet to welcome Zelensky
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky walks through the corridor of the Grand Prince Hotel where the G7 summit is taking place
Zelensky flew to Hiroshima on a French plane
F-16 fighter jets have long topped Ukraine’s wishlist
The F-16 training will be done by U.S. personnel in the coming weeks. The timeline for that training remains unclear bu American officials previously estimated it could take up to 18 months.
‘As the training unfolds in the coming months, we will work with our allies to determine when planes will be delivered, who will be delivering them and how many,’ Sullivan said.
The U.S. Air Force has two F-16 air wings in Europe: the 31st Fighter Wing at the Aviano Air Base in Italy and the 52nd Fighter Wing at Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany. The U.S. also routinely sends F-16 fighters in and out of Europe on a rotational basis in smaller groups.
So far, Ukraine has been relying on much older MiG fighters, 27 of which have been given to them by Poland and Slovakia. Only a few European countries have a supply of F-16s, including the Netherlands which has 40 and Denmark which has 30, in addition to Poland and Norway.
F-16s have been at the top of Ukraine’s weapons wishlist since it was handed main battle tanks from the likes of the US, United Kingdom and Germany.
Western allies have taken even harsher measures against Russia in at attempt to pressure Putin to end the war. G7 leaders announced another round of sanctions on Friday, targeting Russia’s energy sector and military complex.
Moscow, in response, has upped its bombing campaign in Ukraine.