Zelensky marks one year since Russia invaded Ukraine
Defiant Volodymyr Zelensky vowed to rebuild destroyed cities like Bakhmut in the same way that Hiroshima recovered
following the atomic bomb attack during the Second World War.
During his historic appearance at the G7 summit, the Ukrainian President warned Russia will “feel our counter-offensive” as he vowed his troops will drive Vladimir Putin’s invaders out of Ukraine.
He refused to go into further details about the much-anticipated retaliatory action, which is said to be being prepared by Ukraine, but hinted that it would be a powerful response.
Speaking from a peace centre in Hiroshima, the site where one of the atomic bombs dropped by the US fell in 1945, Mr Zelensky warned: “Russia will feel when we have a counter-offensive.”
Earlier he laid a wreath at Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
Russian troops are reportedly still in Ukraine’s eastern city of Bakhmut, which has been completely obliterated by intense fighting. Mr Zelensky said Ukraine will use the example of Hiroshima’s recovery as motivation to rebuild it.
He said: “Let me be sincere that the pictures of ruined Hiroshima really remind me, totally remind me, of Bakhmut and other similar settlements and towns.
“Just the same: nothing alive left, all of the buildings have been ruined, there is no understanding where the street is, where the houses used to be.
“This is just a totally destroyed area, nothing left, not a single person left.”
The atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, killed 140,000 people. Reflecting on how Hiroshima has recovered, Mr Zelensky said: “This is the modern city today which looks alive.
“There are the pictures of the tragedies of Hiroshima, and then the pictures of what we can see today.
“I consider that the same will take place in Bakhmut and other cities and settlements and villages and so on. Definitely, it will be like that.
“Unfortunately, today it is a tragedy but in the future there will be reconstruction and recovery.” The president said international law would be a farce if Russia is able to keep occupied land in any ceasefire deal.
He also warned that other international leaders could be tempted to “wage similar wars” if Putin’s aggression goes unchecked.
He said: “If the level of evil and stupidity in Russia’s actions are left unchecked, the world will inevitably become a wreck.
“It is only a matter of time before other criminals in public office want to wage similar wars. If Russia is allowed to keep even a slither of the territory it occupies, international law will never again apply.”
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Earlier in the day Mr Zelensky met US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
Mr Sunak said the Ukrainian president’s visit to the G7 summit had “historic significance” as he hailed a “real breakthrough” on getting our ally advanced fighter jets.
Mr Sunak also said that any peace deal between Ukraine and Russia must usher in a “just and lasting peace” rather than a ceasefire that hands land to Russia’s president Vladimir Putin.
And he added that the presence of the Ukrainian president at the conference in Japan shows a “powerful message” to the Russian leader.
“We will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes because their security is our security,” he said.
Mr Zelensky addressed the G7 leaders in meetings on Sunday after meeting Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, who has maintained neutrality over the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Pictures of Mr Zelensky shaking Mr Modi’s hand will not be images that Putin wants to see.
It was unclear whether Mr Sunak, who has spoken of the need to speak to Mr Modi about his position, discussed Ukraine with him when they met on Sunday.
The accounts given by both London and New Delhi failed to mention the war.
During the summit, Mr Biden gave the approval for Western allies to hand over their F-16 fighter jets to Kyiv to bolster Ukrainian defences.
Mr Sunak said: “We’re supporting Ukraine to develop the air force it needs for the future, with the UK training Ukrainian pilots, starting this summer.
“And we’ve made a real breakthrough at this summit, thanks to President Biden’s support for an international coalition to provide F-16 jets.”
President Zelensky has been in talks with a number of European states that have stocks of F-16s, including Poland, Denmark and the Netherlands. Britain is not sending its Tornado jets, which are deemed too complex to maintain.
The UK is expected to begin training Ukrainian pilots in flying Western jets within two months. They will undergo basic flying training in the UK and be allowed to familiarise themselves with Western-standard jets. But they will then require further training in the operation of F-16s.
Government sources have revealed that Mr Sunak played a pivotal role in arranging Mr Zelensky’s surprise visit to Japan.
He is understood to have suggested the idea to him a month ago.
British officials then raised with their Japanese counterparts the idea of Zelensky attending, and an invitation was issued.
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