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Zelenskyy will tell ‘swing states’ India and Brazil it’s time to take sides

Zelenskyy will tell ‘swing states’ India and Brazil it’s time to take sides

by host

HIROSHIMA, Japan — For the past 15 months, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been intensively courting the U.S. and Europe to win financial, military and political backing for his war against Russian invaders. He’s about the broaden his audience significantly.

This weekend, Zelenskyy is expected to travel to Japan to meet G7 leaders at the group’s summit in Hiroshima — his first trip to an Asian country since Russia invaded in February last year. While he’s there, he’ll try to win over nations referred to by some Western diplomats as “swing states,” those countries that are not firmly backing Ukraine in the conflict, including Brazil, India and Indonesia.

Three pivotal figures in Zelenskyy’s sights will be Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Indonesian President Joko Widodo. While their countries are not actively backing Russia’s invasion, these nations follow a deep-seated “non-aligned” tradition stemming from the Cold War, with their colonial history also hardening their skepticism about the West. This, in turn, has fuelled a reluctance to back Ukraine, given its intense military and economic support from the U.S. and Europe.

These three leaders have been invited to attend the G7 as “partner countries” and will meet the Ukrainian president on Sunday. “It would be an important occasion for these leaders to have a chance to exchange views,” a G7 official said on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of Zelenskyy’s plans. “We can’t just rely on the West to persuade the Global South.”

On Friday, Zelenskyy’s plane made a surprise stop in Saudi Arabia, where he was due to address the Arab League summit. Top of Ukraine’s wish list is more weapons, with a focus on gaining Western fighter jets such as F-16s. On Friday, the U.S. signaled it will help train Ukrainian pilots in how to fly these warplanes.

The Ukrainian president’s round of shuttle diplomacy comes at a critical time in the conflict, as Kyiv’s forces prepare a major counteroffensive.

Ukrainian government officials have become more active in their communication with so-called Global South nations this year. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has been traveling throughout South America, Africa, and the Pacific since the beginning of May.

At the end of 2022 Zelenskyy defined the Global South as a priority foreign relations course for Ukraine, President’s Representative Tamila Tasheva said in an op-ed in March, the month the Ukrainian delegation visited several countries of Global South.

“Our resources in this region are not comparable to those of Russia in terms of the number of people working in the embassy or in terms of budgets. But we have something much more important — it is historical correctness, and that is exactly what we went there with,” Tasheva said.

Ukraine’s cooperation and partnership with the countries of the Global South will help the process of complete isolation of Russia now and in the future, which will prevent the aggressor from regaining strength and resources to start new, bloody wars, she wrote.

At the G7 in Japan on Friday, leaders issued a joint statement pledging to crack down on circumvention of sanctions against Russia. Countries supporting Vladimir Putin’s military will bear “severe costs” if they do not cease that activity “immediately,” the G7 countries said.

The warning from the bloc of rich democracies comes as the EU is considering sanctioning Chinese companies for their role in providing Russia with dual-use goods that have ended up on the battlefields in Ukraine.

“We will starve Russia of G7 technology, industrial equipment and services that support its war machine,” the G7 countries said in the statement after high-level talks on Friday.

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