‘We’re not going away,’ Sunak warns Putin on support for Ukraine

The UK will continue to defend Ukraine, the prime minister tells Robert Peston

“We’re not going away,” Rishi Sunak has warned Russian President Vladimir Putin as world leaders at the Group of Seven (G7) summit reassert their support for Ukraine.

On Friday, the prime minister told ITV News that Russia needs to understand "they can't just outlast us in this conflict, that we will continue to defend Ukraine".

Ukraine's President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, will join Mr Sunak and the six other leaders of the world’s most powerful democracies at their summit in Japan. A Ukrainian official confirmed Mr Zelenskyy will fly in on Sunday.

The G7 includes Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada and Italy, as well as the European Union.

Rishi Sunak meeting Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida during their bilateral meeting in Hiroshima ahead of the G7 Summit in Japan. Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Mr Sunak said to ITV News: “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.”

Later on Friday, Mr Sunak and his fellow G7 leaders announced that they vow to tighten punishments on Russia for its 15-month invasion of Ukraine.

“Our support for Ukraine will not waver,” the G7 leaders said in a statement released after closed-door meetings, pledging “to stand together against Russia’s illegal, unjustifiable, and unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine.”

“Russia started this war and can end this war,” they said.

Mr Putin’s nuclear threats against Ukraine, along with North Korea ’s months-long barrage of missile tests and China’s rapidly expanding nuclear arsenal, have resonated with Japan’s push to make nuclear disarmament a major part of the G7 summit.

G7 leaders at the Peace Memorial Park where they laid wreaths before attending the first working session of the G7 Summit in Hiroshima. Credit: PA

On Friday, world leaders visited a peace park dedicated to the tens of thousands who died in the world’s first wartime atomic bomb detonation.

After group photos near the city’s iconic bombed-out dome, a wreath-laying and a symbolic cherry tree planting, a new round of sanctions were unveiled against Moscow, with a focus on redoubling efforts to enforce existing sanctions meant to stifle Russia’s war effort and hold accountable those behind it, a US official said. Russia is now the most-sanctioned country in the world, but there are questions about the effectiveness of the financial penalties.

The UK component of the actions will involve banning Russian diamonds and prohibiting imports of Russian-origin copper, aluminium and nickel.

The diamond export industry was worth more than £3 billion to Russia in 2021, but No 10 conceded direct imports have been low since the UK sanctioned state-owned miners Alrosa last year.

The UK is also preparing new individual sanctions against 86 people and companies to apply further pressure on the Russian president and his supporters.

The prime minister tells ITV News' Political Editor Robert Peston that the UK will continue to defend Ukraine

A US official said the other G7 nations would undertake similar steps to further isolate Russia and to undermine its ability to wage war in Ukraine. Details were to emerge throughout the weekend summit.

The G7 nations urged other nations to stop providing Russia with support and weapons “or face severe costs.”

The three-day summit will also include talks on economic stability and the security of Taiwan in the face of Chinese aggression.

China's "behaviour is increasingly authoritarian at home and assertive abroad", Rishi Sunak told ITV News.

The east Asian superpower is "an epoch defining systemic challenge", he said, repeating a warning he has given before, and "the only country with both the needs and the intention to reshape the global order".

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On Sunday, Mr Sunak will meet his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, who is attending the summit as a guest.

Mr Modi, who has been close to the Russian president, has remained neutral on the Russian invasion, calling for peaceful dialogue to end the war.

The prime minister told reporters travelling with him in Japan that he has seen “positive” steps from India in its stance and stressed the need to keep up the dialogue.

“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,” Mr Sunak told reporters.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who represents Hiroshima in parliament, wants nuclear disarmament to be a major focus of discussions, and he formally started the summit at Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park.

The visit by world leaders to a park dedicated to preserving reminders of Aug. 6, 1945, when a US B-29 dropped an atomic bomb over Hiroshima, provided a striking backdrop to the start the summit.

An estimated 140,000 people were killed in the attack, and a fast-dwindling number of now-elderly survivors have ensured that Hiroshima has become synonymous with anti-nuclear peace efforts.