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UKRAINE UPDATE: 22 MAY 2023

Zelensky says Bakhmut destruction echoes Hiroshima, proposes July peace summit

Zelensky says Bakhmut destruction echoes Hiroshima, proposes July peace summit
Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine's President (left), and Fumio Kishida, Japan's Prime Minister, prior to a bilateral meeting following the Group of Seven leaders' summit in Hiroshima, Japan, on 21 May 2023. (Photo: Yuichi Yamazaki / AFP / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky suggested his country was losing control of Bakhmut after months of fierce fighting, but downplayed Russian claims that it now fully occupied the eastern city.

Key developments

“We hold on, we fight, we do not abandon people,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said at a press conference in Japan, where he met with leaders from the Group of Seven nations and other invited guests. “Our people are performing an important task; they are in Bakhmut. I will not share the points where.”

Earlier, he said the only thing left in the eastern city is “a lot of dead Russians”.

Zelensky said the country would receive F-16 fighter jets after a meeting with US President Joe Biden, though the timing is unclear. Biden said he was assured that Ukraine won’t use F-16 jets to attack Russian territory, AP reported. Allies will decide later on the number of jets to send or which countries will provide them, Bloomberg reported on May 20.

 

 

 

Zelensky said no one would negotiate with Russia as long as its troops remained in Ukraine, and he struck a hopeful tone at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

“Pictures of ruined Hiroshima really remind me of Bakhmut and other similar settlements and towns,” he said. “In the future, there will be reconstruction and recovery.”

Zelensky proposed a peace summit to begin in July marking 500 days of full-scale war with participants who “are determined to bring this war to an end”.

He failed to meet Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva for one-on-one talks in Hiroshima, with both sides citing scheduling conflicts. Asked if he was disappointed, Zelensky replied: “I think it disappointed him.”

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who hosted the event held in his hometown, said in closing remarks that the G7 meeting reaffirmed the group’s desire to live in a world without nuclear weapons. It was important to prevent sanctions evasion and close loopholes that had allowed cash to flow to the Kremlin, he added.

Kishida said Zelensky’s appearance at the summit helped send a strong message about the situation in Ukraine, and the group would work for a fair and lasting peace to end the war. DM

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