New sanctions on Russia..Biden informs the G-7 of his agreement to train Ukrainian “F-16” pilots, and a series of explosions rock Kiev

Western sources quoted US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan as saying that President Joe Biden informed the leaders of the Group of Seven countries meeting in Hiroshima, Japan, that he agreed to a joint initiative to train Ukrainian pilots on fourth-generation fighters, including the F-16.

This comes as the seven major industrialized countries tightened their sanctions against Russia, announcing new measures to limit Moscow’s potential to finance its war on Ukraine. Kiev also announced its rejection of any peace mediation with Russia, which does not rule out from the beginning any loss of Ukrainian lands or a cessation of hostilities.

Reuters quoted another US official as saying that President Joe Biden will announce the provision of a new military aid package to Ukraine worth $375 million during the summit, which will include artillery units, ammunition and Himars launchers.

The Japanese Foreign Ministry announced on Saturday that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will attend the summit tomorrow, Sunday, and will hold a bilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

Jake Sullivan confirmed that training Ukrainian forces on F-16 aircraft requires several months, and that a decision will be taken in the coming months regarding the countries that will provide Kiev with this type of aircraft.

He pointed out that the nature of military aid to Ukraine changes with the changing aspects of the conflict there, noting that President Biden is looking forward to meeting his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky during the ongoing summit in Hiroshima from Friday to Sunday.

“historic” decision

The Washington Post had quoted informed sources as saying that the Biden administration had indicated to European allies in recent weeks that the United States would not impede the delivery of F-16s to Ukraine.

Commenting on the US decision, the Ukrainian president said that he welcomes the historic decision of the United States to support an international coalition of combat aircraft for his country.

“I welcome the historic decision of the United States and the American president to support an international coalition to deliver fighters,” he wrote on Twitter, adding that this position “greatly enhances the ability of our army in the air,” noting that he intends to “discuss the practical application of this decision” during the summit.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also confirmed that his country will work with the United States, the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark to provide Ukraine with the combat air capabilities it needs, welcoming Washington’s announcement of its agreement to train Ukrainian pilots.

CNN reported earlier, citing informed sources, that the US administration has signaled to European allies in recent weeks that the US will allow them to export F-16 fighters to Ukraine if that is what the allies decide to do. However, US administration officials said they were not aware of any official requests from allies in this regard.

New penalties

On the other hand, the seven major industrialized countries on Friday tightened their sanctions against Russia, announcing new measures during the Hiroshima Summit aimed at limiting Russia’s potential to finance its war on Ukraine.

The leaders of the United States, Japan, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy and Canada – in a joint declaration issued after a meeting devoted to Ukraine – announced measures to “deny Russia of technologies, industrial equipment and G7 services that support its war campaign” in Ukraine.

These measures include restrictions on exports of products “essential to Russia on the battlefield”, and also target entities accused of transporting equipment to the front for Moscow.

The US National Security Adviser stressed that the new sanctions would increase pressure on the Russian war machine.

The British Prime Minister also considered that the new sanctions show that “the G7 remains united in the face of the threat of Russia and resolute in its support of Ukraine.”

The United Kingdom and the European Union had previously announced strict restrictions on imports of Russian diamonds, a sector that generates billions of dollars annually for Russia.

Conditional mediation

On the other hand, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba announced Friday in Lisbon that his country rejects any peace mediation with Russia that does not exclude from the beginning any loss of Ukrainian lands or a cessation of hostilities.

“Any peace plan or initiative, any mediation, should not involve a legal or real loss of Ukrainian territory,” Kuleba said – after a meeting with his Portuguese counterpart, Joao Gomes Cravinho.

“No initiative or mediation should be based on the assumption that we must freeze the conflict and then see what happens,” he added, addressing reporters.

He noted that “any mediation must lead to the full restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity.”

Attacks on Kyiv

On the ground, Al-Jazeera correspondent reported that a series of powerful explosions occurred in the capital, Kiev, after drones penetrated the air defenses.

The reporter monitored the flight of a drone in the sky of the Independence Square area in the Ukrainian capital, heading towards the presidential palace area, followed by an explosion in the sky of the area surrounding the palace.

Al-Jazeera’s camera also monitored the plane’s flight over the area in the center of the capital.

The correspondent said that a number of residents went to the metro stations to take refuge there.

Ruslan Kravchenko, head of the regional administration for the Kiev region, confirmed that the Russian forces continued their attacks on Kiev, and that the air defenses managed to shoot down a number of drones over the province’s forests.

The Ukrainian Air Force also said that its defenses shot down 16 drones and 3 cruise missiles launched from Russian ships in the Black Sea, while the Ukrainian Security Service announced that 76 targets in 17 towns and villages in Donetsk were damaged by the Russian bombing during the past 24 hours.

In Zaporizhia, in the south of the country, eyewitnesses said that in recent weeks Russian forces had reinforced their defensive positions in and around the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, ahead of the expected Ukrainian counterattack.

The Russian company that operates the plant said any possible military action by Ukraine posed a threat to nuclear safety and that the plant’s equipment was being maintained as required.

Bakhmut mode

Regarding the situation on the Bakhmut front in the east of the country, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hana Malyar described the fighting towards the city as very violent, confirming that the Russian units there are several thousand fighters.

It indicated that these forces continued their attempts to attack, despite incurring heavy losses, as the Ukrainian army worked to destroy them and reduce their offensive capabilities.

It confirmed that the Russian forces are making some progress in the city, but they do not control it.

On the other hand, the commander of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, ruled out taking control of the city within days, indicating that this was due to the concentration of fierce battles in the southwestern suburbs of the city.

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