G7 leaders pledge support for Ukraine on war anniversary

G7 leaders reiterate their support for Ukraine, saying the country can count on the G7’s support “for as long as it takes”

February 25, 2024 03:47 am | Updated 12:09 pm IST - KYIV

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attend a video conference with G7 leaders, on the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine, February 24, 2024.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attend a video conference with G7 leaders, on the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine, February 24, 2024. | Photo Credit: Reuters

Heads of the Group of Seven major democracies on Saturday pledged to stand by war-weary Ukraine, and Western leaders travelled to Kyiv to show solidarity on the second anniversary of Russia's invasion, with no end in sight to the fighting.

After initial successes in pushing back the Russian army, Ukraine has suffered recent setbacks on eastern battlefields, with its generals complaining of growing shortages of both arms and soldiers.

The G7 leaders on Feb. 24 held a video conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on the anniversary of Russia's "special military operation," which ranks as the deadliest conflict in Europe since the Second World War.

"As Ukraine enters the third year of this relentless war, its government and its people can count on the G7’s support for as long as it takes," the G7 leaders said in a statement.

The officials, who have been critical sources of military and financial aid to Kyiv, also vowed to continue targeting Russia's sources of revenue with sanctions.

Mr. Zelensky stressed the need to protect Ukrainian skies and strengthen its army. "We are counting on you," he said on the call, according to remarks published on his website.

‘Ukraine is not alone’

Looking to dispel concerns the West is losing interest in the conflict, Italy's Giorgia Meloni and Canada's Justin Trudeau came to Kyiv early on Saturday with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo.

"The message I want to send today to ... all the Ukrainian people is that they are not alone," Ms. Meloni said as she signed a 10-year defence pact with Mr. Zelensky.

Mr. Trudeau signed a similar accord and pledged some $2.25 billion in financial and military support this year. "We will stand with Ukraine with whatever it takes, for as long as it takes," he said.

The Canadian and Italian security deals mirror similar pacts signed recently with France and Germany.

However, $61 billion in aid promised by U.S. President Joe Biden is being blocked by Republicans in Congress, casting a long shadow over Kyiv's hopes of pushing back the much larger and better supplied Russian military.

In the G7 video call, Mr. Biden discussed Washington's continued support for Ukraine and steps the group can take to continue holding Russia accountable, a White House official said.

Seeking to maintain Western focus on Ukraine, Mr. Zelensky has warned Mr. Putin may not stop at Ukraine's borders if he emerges victorious. Mr. Putin dismisses such claims and casts the war as a wider struggle with the United States, which he says aims to dismantle Russia.

Outside Kyiv, the war continued unabated. Russian drones attacked the port of Odesa for a second night running, hitting a residential building and killing one person, the regional governor said. In Dnipro, a Russian drone hit an apartment building and a rescue operation uncovered two dead. Meanwhile, a source in Kyiv said Ukrainian drones caused a blaze at a Russian steel plant, which a Russian official identified as one in Lipetsk, some 400 km (250 miles) from Ukraine, that is responsible for about 18% of Russian output.

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