Ukraine’s president tells G7 cold weather will help Russians
Volodymyr Zelensky has urged Western leaders to make a big push to end the war with Russia before the winter sets in.
The Ukrainian president yesterday told G7 leaders that battle conditions in the cold weather would make it more difficult for his troops to resist the Russian invasion, as they committed to back his campaign for as long as it took to reach a “position of strength”.
The war has dominated this week’s summit, with Boris Johnson, Joe Biden, Emmanuel Macron and other leaders signing a joint statement condemning Vladimir Putin, proposing new sanctions and pledging to help rebuild the country when the war is over.
Mr Johnson said yesterday that the “price of freedom is worth paying” as he compared Ukrainians’ resistance to the Russian invasion to the Allied fight against Nazi Germany. The Prime Minister also said a Russian victory would mean “long-term instability” and “anxiety across the world” as he made the argument that supporting Mr Zelensky was also in the UK’s strategic interest.
“The point I would make to people is, I think that sometimes the price of freedom is worth paying,” he told the BBC.
“And just remember, it took the democracies in the middle of the last century a long time to recognise that they had to resist tyranny and aggression.
“It took them a long time, it was very expensive, but what it bought in the end, with the defeat of the dictators, particularly of Nazi Germany, it bought decades and decades of stability [and] a world order that relied on a rules-based international system.
“And that is worth protecting, that is worth defending, that delivers long-term prosperity.”
Although the G7 is now committed not to bring an early end to the war that would see Ukrainian territory signed over to Russia, leaders are concerned that the winter months will favour Mr Putin’s forces.
Mr Zelensky urged his counterparts not to “let it drag on over winter” and stressed the necessity of heaping “heavy” punitive action on Russia.
“That is obviously a factor in our own thinking,” a Downing Street spokesman said last night. “It is right to say that the winter months do add an element of advantage.”
The joint statement last night, in which the G7 pledged to support Ukraine “as long as it takes”, was a symbolic victory for Mr Johnson, who had previously warned of “Ukraine fatigue” and hinted that some leaders, including Mr Macron, could be willing to support a peace deal that favoured Mr Putin if it brought an early end to the war. Mr Johnson said what had “really struck” him at the summit was the “amazing consistency of our resolve, the continuing unity of the G7”.
“That has absolutely shone through in the conversation over the last couple of days. I think there is a reason for that. The logic of the position is still so clear,” he said.
“There is no deal that President Zelensky can really do so, in those circumstances, the G7, supporters of Ukraine around the world, have to continue to help the Ukrainians to rebuild their economy, to get their grain out, to export their grain and of course we have to help them to protect themselves and that is what we are going to continue to do.” A Downing Street spokesman added: “At the start of this conflict, we saw predictions that Russia would take the entirety of Ukraine in days, and it’s because of the bravery of the Ukrainian people, the leadership of President Zelensky and support from countries like the UK that that has been proven not to be the case.
“So we share President Zelensky’s view that it is right to seek a conclusion that is in Ukrainians’ interests in the shortest time possible.”
Government sources said Mr Johnson and Mr Macron were now on better terms than ever, with the countries set to organise a bilateral meeting in Paris in the coming months.
Mr Macron is understood to have told Mr Johnson: “My people love your people.” Mr Johnson replied: “Oh my God. My people love your people, too.”
The summit was also a boon to UK relations with Canada. Yesterday morning Mr Johnson shared a joke with Justin Trudeau as he swam in a Bavarian lake while the Canadian prime minister was running around it.
A UK delegation source said there was “ongoing banter” between the two men. The leaders and their spouses met last night for a “leader’s BBQ” at the Schloss Elmau resort in Germany.
Although the G7 summit was largely focused on economic issues, countries signalled they would be willing to offer more military support ahead of today’s Nato conference in Madrid.
Joe Biden’s National Security Adviser said the US was planning to send Ukraine sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles to defend against Russian attacks.
“I can confirm that we are, in fact, in the process of finalising a package that includes advanced air defence capabilities,” Jake Sullivan told reporters in Germany, where President Biden was attending the G7 summit.
Mr Sullivan said Mr Biden had told Mr Zelensky that the United States was preparing a shipment of “advanced medium- and long-range air defence capabilities.” He said additional aid being prepared owing to “urgent need” included artillery ammunition and counter-battery radar systems, which are used to pinpoint the source of enemy artillery firing.
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