Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky made an unexpected appearance at the G7 summit in Hiroshima, where it was announced that Ukraine had successfully secured advanced US F-16 fighter jets, providing a substantial enhancement to its defense capabilities.

President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived in Hiroshima for talks with the G7 Saturday, after winning long-sought access to advanced US fighter jets to bolster Ukraine’s defense.

Zelensky’s surprise summit appearance — he had previously been expected to appear by video call — came after he welcomed a “historic” White House decision to allow Ukraine to obtain F-16 jets.

The group of seven rich democracies are meeting in Japan to discuss issues including the need for “constructive and stable” relations with China, which the bloc accused Saturday of “economic coercion”.

But it was Zelensky’s arrival, and debate about the future of Russia’s 15-month-old invasion of Ukraine, that dominated the summit.

On landing, Zelensky said the summit would bring “increased cooperation for our victory” and he declared that “today, peace will be closer”.

Military experts say the aircraft would be a significant upgrade from Ukraine’s aging Soviet-era fleet, offering greater ability to eventually strike targets in the air or on the ground.

They are also a potent symbol of Western support for Ukraine, forestalling any talk of waning interest as the conflict grinds on.

Until now, US President Joe Biden had effectively vetoed the transfer of US-made F-16s, with officials citing long pilot training times and the risk of escalating the conflict with Russia.

It is Zelensky’s first trip to the Asia-Pacific since the war began, and offers a chance to confer with allies, but also to woo key unaligned powers joining the summit, including India and Brazil.

The grouping also warned China against its “militarization” in the South China Sea and urged Beijing to press Russia to end its invasion of Ukraine.

Miroslava Salazar with AFP