Ukraine live briefing: Biden meets Zelensky at G-7, announces $375M aid package including ammunition, weaponry

President Biden announced a new $375 million military assistance package for Ukraine during a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on May 21. (Video: Reuters)
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HIROSHIMA, Japan — President Biden unveiled a $375 million military assistance package for Ukraine at the Group of Seven summit on Sunday, the latest pledge from Washington of aid that totals $37 billion since Russia’s war began. “Ukraine’s ability to defend itself is essential to being able to end this war permanently and through diplomacy,” Biden told a news conference in Hiroshima. The package includes ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), antitank weapons, armored vehicles and other equipment, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky rejected Russia’s recent claim that it captured Bakhmut after he sparked some confusion when he said the eastern city was now “only in our hearts.” Speaking at a news conference Sunday, Zelensky clarified his earlier comments: “Bakhmut is not occupied by Russian Federation as of today. There are no two or three interpretations of those words.”

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

G-7 in Japan

  • Bakhmut is “just dead and a lot of dead Russians,” Zelensky told reporters, lamenting the city’s destruction. “They came to us. Our defenders in Bakhmut, they did strong work, and of course we appreciate them” for their effort, he said. Russia claimed control of the eastern Ukrainian city on Saturday, but the Ukrainian armed forces said Sunday that battles were continuing there.
  • Troops are still fighting in Bakhmut, Ukraine’s eastern military commander said later Sunday. Oleksandr Syrskyi said on Telegram that his forces are making gains in the suburbs in an attempt to surround the battered city.
  • The United States will support a joint effort to train Ukrainian pilots to fly fighter jets, including the coveted F-16s, Biden said Sunday, with the understanding that Kyiv would not use the jets to escalate the conflict beyond Ukraine’s borders. “I have a flat assurance from Zelensky that they will not, will not, use it to go into Russian geographic territory,” Biden told reporters.
  • Zelensky and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had their first face-to-face meeting since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. India has been reluctant to join the Western coalition against Moscow’s invasion, ramping up its imports of Russian crude oil while other countries cut back. Zelensky also met the heads of state of Italy, France and Germany, he said, adding that his focus at the summit is to press for more weapons. After concluding several days of meetings with world leaders, the Ukrainian president said in his nightly address that “we have an understanding with the world majority on every important point for Ukraine.”
  • The leaders of G-7 nations are aiming for the “double containment” of Russia and China, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said during a televised conference Saturday, according to Reuters. A joint statement by the G-7 members — made up of the United States, Japan, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Canada — called on China to help end the war in Ukraine and underlined China’s growing economic and military power.

Other key developments

  • Berlin police are investigating the alleged poisoning of two Russian exiles at a conference last month in the German capital. Berlin State Criminal Police Office spokesman Martin Stralau told The Washington Post that investigators had “opened a case,” though he declined to comment on potential motive. Natalia Arno, whose Free Russia Foundation criticizes Russian President Vladimir Putin and his war in Ukraine, wrote on Facebook that she found her hotel door ajar and was immediately hit with the “foreign and sharp smell of cheap perfumes in the room.” She woke up in pain hours later, flew back to the United States and went to a hospital.
  • Arno blamed the Kremlin, which has been linked to the poisoning of its enemies in recent years — including Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. Arno had been attending a conference led by a Kremlin-opposition figure, media outlets reported.
  • An accounting error means the Pentagon may be able to send about $3 billion more in aid to Ukraine, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Sunday. Defense Department spokeswoman Sabrina Singh told the Wall Street Journal last week that the Pentagon discovered “inconsistencies in equipment valuation for Ukraine” during a regular review, meaning the aid may flow more easily because it already has congressional approval. On Sunday, Sullivan told CNN that the Defense Department was using “the replacement cost for the equipment we provided” to Ukraine rather than “just the actual cost of that equipment,” meaning “we can spend to provide even more weapons to Ukraine.”

Global impact

  • The International Criminal Court rebuked Russia’s move to add the court’s top prosecutor to a wanted list. In a statement, the ICC called the move “unjustified.” The court, which in March issued warrants for Russian officials including Putin for alleged war crimes in Ukraine, said “coercive measures” will not deter it from ensuring accountability.
  • German defense manufacturer Rheinmetall is looking to join hands with Ukrainian state-owned defense company Ukroboronprom to build German tanks, the company’s chief executive, Armin Papperger, told the German newspaper Bild. The focus, he said, will remain on addressing Ukraine’s battlefield needs such as maintenance and repair before moving to manufacture armored vehicles.
  • About 70,000 Moldovans gathered in the capital Sunday to express their support for the country’s bid to join the European Union, speakers who addressed the demonstration said. The former Soviet republic, which borders Ukraine and is governed by a pro-Western administration, has been subject to intensifying Russian pressure since the invasion of its neighbor. “Moldova’s place is undeniably within the EU,” President Maia Sandu tweeted.
  • A Russian victory over Ukraine could endanger Moldova and the region, former U.S. defense secretary Robert Gates warned Sunday. “If Vladimir Putin wins … there’s no doubt in my mind that Moldova is next,” Gates said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” He added that Putin’s territorial ambition “creates great danger to the Baltic states and to Poland, where we have treaty alliances that would require American forces to confront the Russians.”

From our correspondents

Former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe visits front line in Ukraine: Terry McAuliffe’s seven-day trip to Ukraine this month, including visits to the front line, was highly unusual and what critics might term a risky foray into war tourism, Siobhán O’Grady reports. The 66-year-old former Democratic National Committee chairman called it a personal “fact-finding mission,” traveling nearly 1,900 miles by road.

His goal, he said, was to raise awareness in the United States about the devastating toll of the war, and to expand aid and support for Ukraine. “You’ve got all these countries running away from democracy,” he said. “Here we’ve got a country that is embracing it.”

“We need to win this,” McAuliffe added. “No question about it.”

Masih reported from Seoul, Sands from London, Brasch from Atlanta and Villegas from Washington. Daniel Gilbert in Washington contributed to this report.