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Ukraine updates: Biden announces new arms support for Kyiv

Published May 21, 2023last updated May 21, 2023

The US president said Washington was doing all it can to strengthen support for Ukraine to fight back against Russia's aggression. Meanwhile, Zelenskyy called on G7 leaders to his peace plan. DW has the latest.

US President Joe Biden (left) walks with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky at the G7 Leaders' Summit in Hiroshima on May 21, 2023
US President Joe Biden met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the G7 summit in HiroshimaImage: Susan Walsh/POOL/AFP/Getty Images

US President Joe Biden on Sunday announced a new weapons package for Ukraine, insisting that Washington would continue to support the country against Russia's invasion.

During a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Biden said the package would include "ammunition, artillery, armored vehicles." 

"We have Ukraine's back and we're not going anywhere," Biden said.

Biden: US would support effort to train Ukrainian pilots

Zelenskyy, who made a surprise trip to Japan for the talks, thanked Biden for the support, adding that "we will never forget."

The new $375 million (€347 million) pledge comes days after Biden gave Western allies the okay to begin training Ukrainian pilots on American-made F-16 fighter jets, laying the groundwork for their eventual transfer to Ukraine.

Last weekend, Zelenskyy made a whistlestop tour of European capitals, where he won a €2.7 billion ($2.9 billion) new military aid package from Germany and similar new armament commitments from France and Britain.

Here are some of the other notable developments concerning Russia's war in Ukraine on Sunday, May 21:

Scholz says Ukraine cannot join NATO 'in the foreseeable future'

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said that Ukraine "currently" does not meet the conditions to join the NATO alliance.

In an interview with German daily Welt on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Scholz said that the criteria for joining NATO "include a whole series of conditions that Ukraine cannot currently fulfill."

"Everyone can see that this will not happen in the foreseeable future," Scholz said.

He added that the alliance would also have to discuss security guarantees in the future, after the end of the war. Such discussions would look into how much the alliance would equip Ukraine with weapons in the future, he added.

"After the war, Ukraine will be equipped with Western-made weapons," Scholz said.

Zelenskyy urges G7 leaders to back 'peace formula'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed G7 leaders in Hiroshima on Sunday, calling for a "peace formula" to end the country's war with Russia.

"We're united by one more principle — rationality," he said in the address, which was posted to the president's website.

"We always act practically protecting our values. And the Ukrainian Peace Formula is an obvious expression of rationality. I thank you for supporting our Formula."

Zelenskyy then held a separate session with leaders from India, Brazil, Vietnam and Indonesia to try to win support from non-western nations, many of whom have stayed neutral due to close ties with Russia.

On Saturday, he held one-to-one talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the talks.

Ukraine's Zelenskyy makes surprise appearance at G7 summit

Zelenskyy ambiguous over status of Bakhmut

Zelenskyy appeared on Sunday to confirm the loss of the city of Bakhmut , saying "I think no" when asked if it remained in Kyiv's control after being captured by Moscow's forces.

"For today, it [Bakhmut] is only in our hearts," he said, noting that there was "nothing left" of the city.

However, Sergii Nykyforov, a spokesman for Zelenskyy later clarified on Facebook that the president
was responding to a different part of the question.

"In this way, the president denied the capture of Bakhmut," Nykyforov, said.

Russia's Defense Ministry said Saturday that forces of the Wagner private army, backed by Russian troops, had seized the eastern city.

On Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated his forces and the Wagner mercenaries on the "liberation of the city of Artyomovsk (Bakhmut) and said all participants would be given a state medal, according to a Kremlin statement.

The eight-month battle for Bakhmut is the longest and likely the bloodiest of the war. The city, best known for salt mining, used to have a population of 70,000.

The White House has estimated that Russia has suffered 100,000 casualties in the fight for the city, including the deaths of more than 20,000 soldiers.

Ukraine is estimated to have suffered some 20,000 casualties in the grinding war of attrition for Bakhmut.

Russia's Prigozhin claims capture of Bakhmut: DW reports

UK: Russian surveillance drones help prepare for airstrikes

Russia is increasingly deploying surveillance drones to prepare its airstrikes on Ukraine, the latest UK intelligence update on the war said.

"Innovating on earlier waves of deep strikes, Russia has started more frequently integrating unarmed, surveillance uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) into operations," the British Ministry of Defence said in its daily update on Twitter.

The aircraft include so-called Russian-made "Super Cam UAVs," are were cheap to produce and had sufficient range to fly over potential missile targets.

Experts assume that these kinds of drones are able to fly for between four and five hours at an altitude of up to 5 kilometers (3 miles).

"The Russian military's slow and inefficient targeting process has been a major weakness in its performance in Ukraine. However, slow surveillance UAVs are highly vulnerable to Ukrainian air defenses," the UK intelligence update said.

According to London, Russian missile strikes now primarily focus on "degrading Ukraine air defenses."

Scholz: No timetable for F-16 jets to Ukraine

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he does not expect modern F-16 fighter jets to be delivered to Ukraine any time soon, but the pilot training plan shows the West's commitment to Ukraine.

Speaking on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan, Scholz said the jet deliveries would be "a longer-term project," adding that Washington has not yet decided what will be at the end of the training.

"The project has a message for Russia: Russia cannot count on winning if it bets on a long war,” the chancellor added.

The US gave the green light to train fighter jet pilots during the summit, in a project backed by Britain, France, Belgium, Denmark and Portugal. 

When and how many aircraft will be delivered and which country will provide them will be decided at a later date.

So far, Germany has not indicated any willingness to participate in the training. 

Germany is the second largest supporter, behind the US, of Ukraine in terms of financial, humanitarian and military aid, including tanks and artillery.

Sending F-16s to Ukraine 'not a game-changer': Charles Kupchan, Council on Foreign Relations

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko warned Saturday that Western countries will face "colossal risks" if they supply Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets.

TASS news agency cited Grushko as saying that the West was "still adhering to the escalation scenario."

mm/wd (AFP, Reuters)