President Joe Biden told allies on Friday that he approved plans to train Ukrainian pilots on US-made F-16 fighter jets, according to two people familiar with the matter, as leaders of the world’s most powerful democracies worked to toughen penalties against Russia for its 15-month invasion. of Ukraine.

The Group of seven leaders meet in Hiroshima, with the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy will attend their summit on Sunday.

The green light for F-16 training is the latest shift by the Biden administration as it moves toward armaments Ukraine with more advanced and lethal weapons, after earlier decisions to send rocket launchers and Abrams tanks. The US has insisted it is sending weapons to Ukraine to defend itself and has discouraged attacks by Ukraine on Russian territory.

The G7 leaders also used their summit to launch a new wave of global sanctions against Moscow as well as plans to improve the effectiveness of existing economic sanctions meant to constrain the president. Vladimir Putins war effort.

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“Our support for Ukraine will not waver,” the G7 leaders said in a statement released after closed-door meetings. They pledged “to stand together against Russia’s illegal, unjustifiable and unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine.”

Click to play video: 'Trudeau Announces 70 New Sanctions Against Russian Entities, People Involved in War on Ukraine'

Trudeau announces 70 new sanctions against Russian entities, people involved in war against Ukraine

“Russia started this war and can end this war,” they said.

Zelenskyy has consistently called for the delivery of Western fighter jets to bolster his country’s defenses against Russias invasion, but has so far faced skepticism from the US that they would turn the tide in the war.

Now, as Ukraine has beefed up its air defenses with a host of Western anti-aircraft systems and is preparing to launch a counteroffensive against Russia, officials believe the jets could prove useful in combat and essential to the country’s long-term security.

Biden’s support for training Ukrainian pilots on advanced fighter jets serves as a precursor to sending the jets to Ukraine for the first time. But decisions about when, how many and who will provide the fourth-generation fighter jets will be made in the coming months while the training is underway, Biden told the leaders.

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The F-16 training is to be conducted in Europe and is likely to begin in the coming weeks. That’s according to two people who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss Biden’s private conversations with allies.

Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said on national television that Zelenskyy would attend the summit.

Click to play video: 'US, Japan pledge to 'hold Russia accountable' for Ukraine war: Biden'

US, Japan pledge to ‘hold Russia accountable’ for Ukraine war: Biden

“Very important issues will be decided there, so physical presence is a crucial thing to defend our interests,” Danilov said on Friday.

The council later walked back those comments, saying in a statement that Zelenskyy would join the G7 summit in Hiroshima via video link. The resident’s office would not confirm either route for security reasons, and his exact travel plans were not clear.

Zelenskyy announced on Friday that he had also opened a visit to Saudi Arabia, where Arab leaders were holding their own summit.

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European allies in recent weeks have warmed to the idea of ​​sending warplanes to Ukraine, as have parts of Biden’s cabinet, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who has emerged as a staunch advocate within the administration. Under the export license rules, the US had to sign off on any allied effort to train Ukrainian pilots or supply them with the jets.

The latest sanctions targeting Russia include tightening restrictions on already sanctioned individuals and companies involved in the war effort. More than 125 individuals and organizations in 20 countries have been hit by US sanctions. The financial penalties have primarily targeted sanctions violators linked to technology procurement for the Kremlin. The Commerce Department also added 71 companies to its own list.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the sanctions on Friday “will further tighten the vise on Putin’s ability to carry out his barbaric invasion and will advance our global efforts to disrupt Russian attempts to evade sanctions.”

In addition, new reporting requirements have been issued for individuals and companies that have any interest in Russian central bank assets. The aim is to “fully map holdings of Russia’s sovereign assets that will remain immobilized in G7 jurisdictions until Russia pays for the damage it has caused to Ukraine,” the US Treasury Department said.

Russia is now the most sanctioned country in the world, but there are questions about its effectiveness.

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Ukraine claims it shot down several Russian hypersonic missiles

Maria Snegovaya, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said while the G7 countries “deserve credit” for their sanctions, while “Russia still has the capacity to fight this war in the long term.”

She added that the costs of the war are “easily manageable for Russia at least for the next few years, and the cumulative effect of sanctions is simply not strong enough to radically change that.”

The G7 nations said in Friday’s statement that they would work to prevent Russia from using the international financial system to prosecute its wars, and they urged other nations to stop providing Russia with aid and arms “or face severe costs.”

The European Union was focused on closing loopholes and plans to limit trade in Russian diamonds, European Council President Charles Michel told reporters on Friday.

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Putin’s nuclear threats against Ukraine, along with North Korea’s months-long barrage of missile tests and China’s rapidly expanding nuclear arsenal, have resonated with Japan’s push to make nuclear disarmament a major part of the G7 summit. World leaders visited a peace park on Friday dedicated to the tens of thousands who died in the world’s first atomic bomb detonation in wartime.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who represents Hiroshima in parliament, wants nuclear disarmament to be a major focus of the discussions and he formally opened the summit in Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park.

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G7 summit: Ukraine, nuclear disarmament key focus

The visit by world leaders was in a park dedicated to preserving the reminders of August 6, 1945, when an American B-29 dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and the city has become synonymous with anti-nuclear peace efforts.

Biden, who scrapped plans to travel on to Papua New Guinea and Australia after his stay in Japan so he can return to debt relief talks in Washington, arranged a meeting Saturday on the G-7 side with leaders of the so-called Quad partnership , which consists of Japan, Australia, India and the United States

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As G7 participants made their way to Hiroshima, Moscow unleashed another airstrike on the Ukrainian capital. Loud explosions thundered through Kiev in the early hours, marking the ninth time this month that Russian airstrikes have targeted the city after weeks of relative calm.

G7 leaders and invited guests from several other counties on Saturday are also scheduled to discuss how to deal with China’s growing assertiveness and military buildup as fears mount that it could try to take Taiwan by force, triggering a wider conflict. China claims the self-governing island as its own, and its ships and warplanes regularly patrol near it.

In a bit of dueling diplomacy, Chinese President Xi Jinping is hosting the leaders of the Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan for a two-day summit in the Chinese city of Xi’an.

The G7 leaders will discuss efforts to strengthen the global economy and tackle rising prices that are straining families and government budgets around the world, especially in developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

A US official said the leaders would issue a joint statement on Saturday highlighting a common strategy for dealing with China, as well as outlining new projects in the G7’s global infrastructure development initiative, which is meant to offer countries an alternative to China’s investment dollars . .

The G7 includes Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada and Italy, as well as the European Union.

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Associated Press writers Adam Schreck and Mari Yamaguchi in Hiroshima, Japan, Raf Casert in Brussels, Hanna Arhirova in Kiev, Ukraine and Fatima Hussein in Washington contributed to this report.