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Zelensky Will Issue Ultimatum to Neutral Countries in Russia-Ukraine War: ‘Time to Pick Sides’

President Volodymyr Zelensky is ratcheting up the pressure on neutral countries that have avoided picking sides in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

The Ukrainian president traveled to Japan this weekend to meet with G7 leaders at the summit in Hiroshima. This will be his first visit to an Asian country since Russia’s invasion in February of last year.

The New York Times reported that, “President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine landed in Japan on Saturday determined to urge the wealthiest democracies in the world to stick with him as Moscow bets on the West growing fatigued by the cost and consequences of the war.”

“Mr. Zelensky made a dramatic entry into Hiroshima, landing in a French plane after days in which Ukrainian and Japanese officials insisted, presumably for security reasons, that he would join the leaders at the Group of 7 summit only virtually,” the report continued. “He was dressed in his signature hoodie, standing out from the coat-and-tie diplomatic crowd of this annual summit meeting.”

During his time there, he aims to engage with nations referred to as “swing states” by some Western diplomats. These countries, including Brazil, India, and Indonesia, have not firmly aligned themselves with Ukraine in the conflict.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and Indonesian President Joko Widodo are among the key figures Zelensky is targeting. These nations are not actively supporting Russia’s invasion and have a historical tradition of non-alignment extending back to the Cold War era.

These three leaders have been invited to attend the G7 summit as “partner countries” and will meet with the Ukrainian president on Sunday. A G7 official, speaking on condition of anonymity, emphasized the importance of this occasion for exchanging views and acknowledged the need to engage with the Global South beyond Western persuasion.

In a surprise move on Friday, Zelensky’s plane made a stop in Saudi Arabia, where he was scheduled to address the Arab League summit. Ukraine’s top priority is obtaining more weapons, particularly Western fighter jets like F-16s. The US has signaled its willingness to assist in training Ukrainian pilots to fly these warplanes.

Zelensky’s diplomatic efforts come at a critical juncture in the conflict, as Ukrainian forces prepare for a major counteroffensive.

Throughout this year, Ukrainian government officials have been actively engaging with nations in the Global South. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has been traveling extensively in South America, Africa, and the Pacific since May.

President Zelensky designated the Global South as a priority in Ukraine’s foreign relations in late 2022. According to President’s Representative Tamila Tasheva, Ukraine’s cooperation and partnership with Global South countries will contribute to isolating Russia completely, preventing the aggressor from regaining strength and resources to initiate new bloody wars.

During the G7 summit in Japan, leaders issued a joint statement committing to crackdown on sanctions evasion targeting Russia. The statement warned that countries supporting Putin’s military will face severe consequences if they do not immediately cease such activities.

In addition, the EU is considering imposing sanctions on Chinese companies for their involvement in supplying Russia with dual-use goods that have ended up on the battlefields in Ukraine. The G7 countries emphasized their commitment to starving Russia of G7 technology, industrial equipment, and services that support its war efforts.

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

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OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion.