G7 summit: Rishi Sunak says West’s support for Ukraine ‘not going away’ ahead of Zelensky visit

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The Prime Minister said world leaders would discuss “longer-term security arrangements” to deter further Russian aggression

Rishi Sunak has warned Vladimir Putin that Western allies are “not going away” and remain “steadfast” in their support for Ukraine as its war with Russia continues.

The Prime Minister was speaking on the first day of the G7 summit of world leaders in Japan - where it’s expected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will appear in person this weekend.

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What did the PM say?

As is standard practice when Prime Ministers travel to major international summits, Sunak gave a round of interviews to the main broadcasters - the BBC, Sky News and ITV News - as the G7 gathering got under way in Hiroshima, the city destroyed by an atomic bomb at the end of the Second World War in 1945.

“My message to Putin is straightforward. We’re not going away,” he told Sky. “Russia needs to know that we and other countries remain steadfast in our resolve to support Ukraine, not just in the here and now with the resources it needs to protect itself, but for the long term as well.”

He added to ITV: “They can’t just outlast us in this conflict. One of the common topics of conversation I’ll be having and have been having with my fellow leaders is about the longer-term security agreements that we put in place in Ukraine, to deter future Russian aggression.”

What new action is Britain taking against Russia?

The UK has announced a new round of sanctions targeting companies linked to the theft of Ukrainian grain. The import of Russian diamonds, copper, aluminium and nickel will also be banned. Ministers say this will “increase pressure on Russia’s metal industry, which remains an important revenue stream funding the Kremlin’s war machine”.

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The diamond export industry was worth more than £3 billion to Russia in 2021, but Downing Street admitted direct imports have tumbled since the UK sanctioned state-owned miners Alrosa last year.

Diamonds being sorted by Russian state-owned miners Alrosa Diamonds being sorted by Russian state-owned miners Alrosa
Diamonds being sorted by Russian state-owned miners Alrosa | AFP via Getty Images

Britain has also recently started supplying Storm Shadow cruise missiles to Ukraine - and is promising to give elementary training to Ukrainian pilots so they can fly F-16 fighter jets.

When’s Zelensky heading to the G7?

After a recent tour of European capitals - and a visit to the UK on Monday (May 15) - it’s understood Zelensky will appear in Hiroshima in person on the final day of the meeting on Sunday (May 21).

Other world leaders have been invited to the G7 as guests - including India’s Narendra Modi and Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Neither has done enough to oppose the invasion in the view of Western allies.

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Modi, who’s close to Vladimir Putin, has remained neutral on the war, calling for peaceful dialogue to end it - but Sunak said he’d seen “positive” steps from India in its position.

“One thing we have to keep doing is talking to countries like India and also Brazil, that is going to be in that second part of the summit which is a good thing,” he added.

 Prime Minister Rishi Sunak  greets Volodymyr Zelensky (Photo: Twitter/Rishi Sunak) Prime Minister Rishi Sunak  greets Volodymyr Zelensky (Photo: Twitter/Rishi Sunak)
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak greets Volodymyr Zelensky (Photo: Twitter/Rishi Sunak)

What else was Sunak asked about?

In the broadcast interviews, Sunak was repeatedly challenged about immigration numbers - after he refused to commit to bring them back down to 2019 levels.

Figures out next week are expected to show net migration - the gap between the number of people leaving the UK and the number entering - rose significantly in 2022.

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The PM told the BBC he was “crystal clear” he wanted to reduce immigration but was “not going to put a precise figure on it” - and said last year’s total would be impacted by the arrival of Ukrainian refugees in the UK, something he was “proud of”.

He reiterated to Sky that he was “relentlessly focused” on stopping small boat crossings in the English Channel.

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