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Russia warns of ‘colossal risks’ if F-16 fighter jets sent to Ukraine

Russia has warned Western countries that supplying Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets would carry “colossal risks”, after US president Joe Biden paved the way for Kyiv to receive the warplanes.

As G7 leaders met for the second day of the summit in Japan, Russian deputy foreign minister Alexander Grushko accused Western countries of “still adhering to the escalation scenario”.

“It involves colossal risks for themselves,” he added. "In any case, this will be taken into account in all our plans, and we have all the necessary means to achieve the goals we have set."

It comes after Mr Biden informed his allies that it will allow the advanced planes to be donated to Kyiv. Mr Biden, who is attending the G7 with other members France, Italy, Germany, Japan and Canada, as well as the EU, also announced training for Ukrainian pilots.

US President Joe Biden (R) and Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo  at the G7 Summit (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of J)
US President Joe Biden (R) and Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo at the G7 Summit (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of J)

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky has stressed the need for F-16 jets, but the US previously hesitated to provide them. The warplanes can travel at twice the speed of sound and can engage with targets in the air and on the ground.

Prime minister Rishi Sunak welcomed the decision, having pressed allies to provide the Ukrainian president with the jets.

“The UK will work together with the USA and the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark to get Ukraine the combat air capability it needs. We stand united,” he said in a statement.

The RAF does not have any US-manufactured F-16s.

Mr Zelensky touched down in Japan on Saturday morning for the summit, saying in a statement that “peace will become closer” as he headed into talks with G7 leaders.

It is understood it was Mr Sunak who suggested to the Ukrainian war leader that he should attend the Asian summit in person. Mr Sunak is understood to have pitched the idea during a phone call about a month ago before it was then broached with the Japanese hosts.

Rishi Sunak and Volodymyr Zelensky were pictured embracing on Saturday (Getty Images)
Rishi Sunak and Volodymyr Zelensky were pictured embracing on Saturday (Getty Images)

Mr Zelensky’s presence at the meeting will potentially bring him into contact with India’s Narendra Modi and Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who have not supported Ukraine like their Western allies.

Neither are G7 members, but India is being represented at the summit because it is the current G20 chair, while Brazil has been invited as a guest.

Mr Zelensky’s attendance at the G7, the group that Russia was expelled from over its 2014 annexation of Crimea, is another show of solidarity from Western allies.

Japan said Mr Zelensky has a “strong wish” to take part in the talks that will influence his nation’s defence against Vladimir Putin.

Uraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky (R) holds a meeting with Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni (not pictured) (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Uraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky (R) holds a meeting with Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni (not pictured) (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

On Saturday, Mr Sunak met with French president Emmanuel Macron for discussions at the summit and had a short “brush-by” meeting with German chancellor Olaf Scholz.

They discussed providing military aid and “longer-term security assistance” to Ukraine as well as tackling small boat crossings of the Channel, Downing Street said.

Meanwhile, the G7 announced it would establish a new team to root out and counter Russia and China’s use of economic coercion to influence nations’ decisions.

G7 leaders meeting in Japan (AP)
G7 leaders meeting in Japan (AP)

Worried by the outsized role China now plays in supply chains for everything from semiconductors to critical minerals, the G7 issued a communique that set out a common strategy towards future dealings with the world’s second-largest economy.

"We call on China to press Russia to stop its military aggression, and immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw its troops from Ukraine," the leaders said in a statement.

They warned that countries attempting to use trade as a weapon would face "consequences", sending a strong signal to Beijing over practices Washington says amount to economic bullying.

"We are not decoupling or turning inwards. At the same time, we recognise that economic resilience requires de-risking and diversifying," they said. "A growing China that plays by international rules would be of global interest."