Zelensky Says Destroyed Bakhmut Now Lives ‘Only In Our Hearts’

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HIROSHIMA, Japan – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, imploring the world’s wealthy democracies to continue supplying Ukraine with arms and money, stood in a place once synonymous with utter military devastation to mourn the destruction of his country’s own city of Bakhmut.

Visiting Hiroshima, decimated by an atomic bomb in 1945, Zelensky warned urgently that Ukraine’s cities could face a similar fate if the world does not help him rebuff Russia’s onslaught. “The pictures of ruined Hiroshima totally reminded me of Bakhmut and other similar settlements and towns,” Zelensky told reporters after visiting the memorial museum dedicated to those who died in the atomic bombing.

Pointing to Hiroshima’s rebuilding – as well as the blue-and-yellow flags planted around the city to greet his arrival and show solidarity – Zelensky called on democracies to unite in ensuring that “war has no place in the world.”

“Now, Hiroshima is a rebuilt city, and we dream of rebuilding all our cities that are now in ruins, and every village where not a single house is left intact after Russian strikes,” Zelensky said. “Our heroic people are turning history around so we can make war itself become a shadow.”

He rejected Russia’s claims that it has taken control of Bakhmut: “Bakhmut is not occupied by Russian Federation as of today. There are no two or three interpretations of those words.” But he acknowledged that the city has largely been leveled, saying all that remains is ground “and a lot of dead Russians.”

“For today, Bakhmut is only in our hearts, and there is nothing on this place,” Zelensky said.

It was a somber note as Zelensky met with world leaders in a municipality that, along with the Japanese city of Nagasaki, was severely damaged nearly eight decades ago by an American nuclear bomb. The Ukrainian president came warning anew about the threats of nuclear weapons and the risks for his war-battered country that is seeking to one day rebuild in the same way Hiroshima has become a vibrant industrial hub.

President Biden, in remarks before meeting with Zelensky, said the United States would supply Ukraine with another $375 million in military assistance that he described as “a package that includes more ammunition artillery, armored vehicles to bolster Ukraine’s battlefield abilities.”

“The United States continues to help Ukraine respond, recover and rebuild,” Biden said.

Zelensky, whose arrival quickly became the main event of the weekend summit, held a flurry of individual and group meetings asking the assembled leaders to continue providing support for his country. Throughout the day, he received hugs, handshakes and pats on the back.

Zelensky had notable success in the weeks before the summit in securing promises of aid, despite fears that some countries might grow weary as the war extends well into its second year.

Zelensky’s meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin on May 14 culminated with a promise to provide Ukraine with air defense systems and more tanks. Then came a surprise trip to Paris, where French President Emmanuel Macron announced that armored vehicles and light tanks would be headed to Ukraine. During Zelensky’s U.K. visit, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Ukrainian forces will get “hundreds” of missiles and drones, and London also offered to help other countries send fighter jets to Ukraine.

Ukraine, meanwhile, continue shipping grain around the world after a NATO- and Turkey-brokered deal to extend a Black Sea initiative between Kyiv and Moscow, an agreement that gives Zelensky’s nation an economic lifeline.

The diplomacy continued Friday, when Zelensky stopped in Saudi Arabia to request more support from Arab League leaders. That meeting included Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who was attending for the first time since being suspended from the group 12 years ago after his crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators triggered a deadly civil war.

As for the United States, Zelensky’s meeting with Biden on Sunday came a few days after White House officials said they would allow allied nations to send American-made F-16s to Ukraine, and that the United States would train Ukrainian pilots in flying them. That decision, a significant shift after Biden had maintained that the fighter jets were unnecessary, came after Zelensky had for months requested the advanced aerial capabilities to bolster his country’s counteroffensive.

At the end of summit, Zelensky said in a news conference that the Group of Seven country leaders expressed support for Ukraine to receive more “weapons of high quality,” but declined to cite specifics.

“I don’t know whether everybody was agreeing with me, but definitely there was nobody who disagreed” about putting pressure on Russia for a diplomatic solution to end the war, Zelensky said at the news conference.

Earlier in the day, he wrote an emboldened Twitter message stating that Ukraine would not negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin until Russian troops are withdrawn from Ukrainian territory.

“As long as invaders remain on our land, no one will sit down at the negotiating table,” Zelensky wrote. “The colonizer must get out. And the world has enough power to force [Russia] to restore peace step by step.”

After spending much of the day in meetings, Zelensky visited the Peace Memorial Park, located at the epicenter of the 1945 bombing. He visited the site alongside Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, whose family is from Hiroshima.

Zelensky began the day with other leaders at a hotel. They posed for photos briefly, with Zelensky leaning over to Kishida and saying, “Thank you.” After about a minute of rearranging themselves and posing for photos, Biden came over to Zelensky, draping his arm around him and speaking into his ear as they left the room.

Zelensky’s appearance at the informal grouping of the world’s largest economies showed how much the geopolitical landscape has shifted in the face of Russia’s attacks on Ukraine. Russia was kicked out of the group, known previously as the Group of Eight, in 2014 after Moscow illegally annexed Crimea; now, the leaders of the remaining seven countries have banded solidly together against Russian aggression.

In recent weeks, national security adviser Jake Sullivan traveled to London, in part to iron out the details of the F-16 issue, according to U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private deliberations. While there, he met with European officials, including the British, French and Germans, to discuss the logistics of training the Ukrainians and spoke with the Dutch and the Poles to discuss the potential delivery of the fighter jets.

The trainings are likely to take place in Europe, U.S. officials said. The Netherlands and Poland have F-16s, making them central to the effort to provide Ukraine with the aircraft.

Upon returning to Washington, Sullivan briefed Biden on the discussions and the broad support among U.S. allies to give the planes to Ukraine. Biden then told his G-7 counterparts at the summit that the United States would support training Ukrainian pilots, paving the way for countries to eventually send F-16s to Ukraine.

Zelensky’s trip had been kept under wraps until the day before he was to arrive. He landed late Saturday afternoon, dressed in his signature army green, and walked down the stairs of a French plane to board a waiting motorcade. After riding through the streets of Hiroshima, with police officers standing at nearly every corner, he held for several meetings with foreign leaders.

One of his first was with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has remained neutral on the war. It was the first time the two have met since the war began.

In his remarks, Modi said he would do everything he could to find a solution to the conflict: “For me, this is an issue of humanity and humanitarian values. You would know the challenges and pain of war more than any of us.”

Zelensky held meetings late into the evening with every top leader here, including Macron, Scholz and Sunak. Zelensky released an upbeat video late Saturday to the citizens of his country, calling his meetings hopeful and productive.

“As always, I’m thankful to our warriors, to everyone who protects the Ukrainian land, the Ukrainian sea and the Ukrainian sky,” he said. “We are sure we will return from this visit with even greater opportunities for you, our defenders.”

Despite the positive mood, it’s clear that the war itself continues to be a hard-fought slog. Although damage from a midweek missile strike on the U.S.-provided Patriot air-defense system was repaired, attacks on Kyiv were some of the heaviest in months, prompting overnight sirens and unnerving capital residents while their president was traveling to shore up support.

Amid his efforts to secure more assistance from Asian allies, Zelensky also met with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, whose country sits on a huge supply of artillery shells that Ukraine says it desperately needs and has faced sustained pressure from Western countries to send lethal weapons directly to Kyiv.

Zelensky said on Twitter that he thanked Yoon for South Korea’s humanitarian and nonlethal assistance and that he looked forward to “continued cooperation.”

Seoul has been wary of driving Moscow closer to Pyongyang, out of fears that Russia would retaliate by helping North Korea advance its nuclear and weapons programs. U.S. officials have said that Russia is already providing food and other commodities to North Korea in return for weapons.

In his remarks at the news conference, Zelensky said his country is in need of artillery shells.

“I would like all the states capable of help to help, but I understand there are certain legislative or constitutional limitations,” he said.

Zelensky and Kishida met Sunday evening for the first time since Kishida’s March trip to Ukraine as the final G-7 leader to make the trek to Kyiv to show support. At the time, Zelensky called the Japanese leader “a truly powerful defender of the international order and a longtime friend of Ukraine.”

In a news conference concluding the summit Sunday, Kishida said that it was “truly worthwhile for the G-7 to have invited President Zelensky to Japan to show the G-7’s unwavering solidarity with Ukraine.”

By inviting Zelensky, Kishida said, the leaders were able to send a “strong message to the world” about their support for Ukraine and their condemnation of Russia’s invasion.

“Wherever in the world, attempting to unilaterally change the status quo by force can never be accepted,” he said.

(c) 2023, The Washington Post · Matt Viser, Tyler Pager, Michelle Ye Hee Lee 


3 COMMENTS

  1. Wow. How the Compost must twist everything.
    I feel terrible for the poor downtrodden Ukrainian olagarchs and butchers. As a taxpayer, I demand our US government give Zelenskyy and his buddies an additional $80 billion US tax dollars. If we are ever to achieve tikun olam, we have to make Ukraine the capital of the world.

    • You have nothing to be concerned about especially if the drivel comes from the Compost who are paid for fabricating junk news. America is not giving the Ukraine a dime. It all goes to Russia to get rid of the Nazis in Ukraine, their bio-chemical labs and nuclear plants, etc. President Trump is in control. You’ll soon find out that EVERYTHING conspiracy theorists posted were right.

    • The question is
      “Which of the TWO sets of oligarchs, butchers, and OTHERS operates more in our own national interest?”

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