Rishi Sunak has warned Vladimir Putin that western leaders are “not going away” as they gathered at the G7 summit in Japan, with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, preparing to fly in to meet them.
At a teahouse in Shukkeien garden in Hiroshima on Friday, the prime minister told Sky News: “Russia needs to know that we and other countries remain steadfast in our resolve to support Ukraine, not just in the here and now with the resources it needs to protect itself, but for the long term as well.”
He told ITV: “They can’t just outlast us in this conflict. One of the common topics of conversation I’ll be having and have been having with my fellow leaders is about the longer-term security agreements that we put in place in Ukraine, to deter future Russian aggression.”
Zelenskiy is expected to arrive at the summit for an intensive round of diplomacy over the weekend. With Russia’s war against Ukraine now in its second year, Sunak has said his main mission at the G7 is to shore up support for Kyiv, especially among countries maintaining a broadly neutral stance, such as India.
The UK was joined by other G7 nations including the US in unveiling a swathe of new sanctions against Russia.
Flying into Hiroshima for the three-day gathering of world leaders – and becoming the first British prime minister to visit the city destroyed by a US atomic bomb in 1945 – Sunak announced a UK ban on imports of Russian diamonds and Russian-origin copper, nickel and aluminium, with other G7 members expected to follow suit.
Seeking to push his credentials on the global stage after a bruising few weeks of domestic politics, Sunak also set out sanctions targeting another 86 individuals and firms linked to Putin, taking the total UK sanctions list to more than 1,500.
The US had also promised fresh sanctions aimed at disrupting Russia’s ability to get materials it needs for the battlefield, closing loopholes used to evade sanctions, further reducing international reliance on Russian energy, and narrowing Moscow’s access to the international financial system, an official told the Reuters news agency.
US sanctions would “cut off roughly 70 entities from Russia, and other countries, from receiving US exports by adding them to the commerce blacklist. And there will be upwards of 300 new sanctions against individuals, entities, vessels and aircraft,” the official added.
A key task for Sunak will be to put pressure on leaders who have remained more neutral over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, notably the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi.
Before landing in Hiroshima along with his wife, Akshata Murty, her first attendance on an official No 10 trip, Sunak said he hoped to stress the extent of Russian war crimes to leaders from non-G7 nations including Modi and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the Brazilian president.
“One of my three things is talking to countries around the world and making sure they realise what is going on, the war crimes Russia is committing inside Ukraine and why everyone should support bringing about a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
“That’s what President Zelenskiy wants, that’s what we want, and putting pressure on Russia to withdraw their forces so we can get to that outcome, that’s the consistent message that I will be taking to countries all around the world.”
Sunak and Modi will meet but it is not yet confirmed that this will be a formal bilateral meeting.
Given the UK imposed punishing tariffs of 35% on diamonds and metals from Russia last year, massively reducing trade, the outright ban could prove largely symbolic unless it takes place in conjunction with other countries.
The EU has previously stopped short of banning diamonds owing to the importance of the sector to Antwerp in Belgium. It is expected to instead call for better tracing technology for Russian diamonds, a commodity that earned Russia €4.5bn (£3.9bn) in 2021.
Iron, steel, gas, oil and coal imports to the UK from Russia are already banned.
As well as discussing Ukraine, the assembled world leaders, among them the US president, Joe Biden, will hold talks on Indo-Pacific security in light of China’s threat to Taiwan, as well as nuclear disarmament, a key subject for Fumio Kishida, the Japanese prime minister, who is hosting the summit in the first city ever hit with an atomic bomb.
The leaders are expected to visit Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Museum on Saturday. It details the destruction on 6 August 1945, which led to 140,000 deaths by the end of that year.
In comments released before the summit, Sunak explicitly linked Hiroshima’s past with Russia’s actions in Ukraine. “For the sake of global peace and security, we must show that brutal violence and coercion does not reap rewards,” he said.
“As today’s sanctions announcements demonstrate, the G7 remains unified in the face of the threat from Russia and steadfast in our support for Ukraine. We are meeting today in Hiroshima, a city that exemplifies both the horrors of war and the dividends of peace.”
The summit, which follows Sunak’s address to the Council of Europe summit in Reykjavik, is a chance for the prime minister to look beyond domestic woes following the Conservatives’ terrible results in this month’s local elections, in which the party exceeded even its deliberately gloomy pre-poll forecast of 1,000 losses.
Even heading to the G7, however, he has not been immune, facing criticism for being out of touch after telling reporters on the flight to Japan that people’s household incomes were “hugely outperforming” expectations and there were “lots of signs that things are moving in the right direction” with the economy.
Sunak met Kishida for dinner on Thursday night after signing a defence pact agreeing to consult each other on major military decisions. The summit is set to discuss the Chinese threat towards Taiwan, amid increasing belligerence from Beijing since the invasion of Ukraine.
The prime minister also held a business reception for UK and Japanese companies, with Sunak claiming about £18bn of investment had been pledged.