Zelenskyy and Trudeau meet face-to-face at G7 in Japan
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy early Sunday on the margins of the Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima, Japan, where the two men embraced and exchanged words of support and appreciation.
It was one of a series of whirlwind meetings for the Ukrainian leader as he tries to solidify international support for his country ahead of a planned counteroffensive to drive Russian troops out of his country.
Trudeau told Zelenskyy that Canada stands with Ukraine.
"We talk every few weeks. It's so nice to see you in person," Trudeau said. "It's so nice to be able to actually talk directly like this."
"Japan. G7. Important meetings with partners and friends of Ukraine. Security and enhanced cooperation for our victory. Peace will become closer today," Zelenskyy tweeted following his arrival Saturday aboard a French government jet.
While Zelenskyy was meeting with world leaders, the Russian defence ministry and the head of the Russian Wagner mercenary force claimed that Bakhmut — the Ukrainian town that has been the scene of the costly and likely the most deadly battle of the war — had fallen to Russian forces.
The head of Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said in a Telegram post that the city came under complete Russian control around midday Saturday.
Ukraine's military command denied the claim.
'I want to thank you'
For his part, Zelenskyy was gracious and appreciative.
"It's good to see you," Zelenskyy told Trudeau after a handshake and hug. "I want to thank you, your government, also Canadian people for supporting us."
The G7 host, Japan, has said including Zelenskyy came following the "strong wish" of the Ukrainian president to be at the table with the nations that will influence his country's defence against Russia and eventual reconstruction.
Russian claims a distraction, Zelenskyy adviser says
A few hours later and using the Soviet-era name for the city, the Russian defence ministry said: "The assault teams of the Wagner private military company with the support of artillery and aviation of the southern battlegroup has completed the liberation of the city of Artyomovsk."
Mykhailo Podolyak, a Zelenskyy adviser, also denied the Wagner claim, saying, "It is not the first time Prigozhin has said 'We seized everything and are dominating.'"
He suggested that the Wagner chief's statement was aimed at drawing attention away from Zelenskyy's recent highly visible trips overseas, including the G7 summit.
The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War, which has tracked the fighting in Ukraine daily, quoted Ukraine's deputy defence minister Hanna Malyar as saying Ukrainian forces continue to hold positions near the city's MiG-17 monument.
The organization added that if Prigozhin's claim is true, the seizure is merely "symbolic" because Ukrainian forces continue to pressure and push back Russian troops on the northern and southern flanks of Bakhmut.
"The last few urban blocks of eastern Bakhmut that Prigozhin claimed that Wagner Group forces captured are not tactically or operationally significant," the institute said in its nightly update.
Source: Murray Brewster