The war in Ukraine was the most prominent issue in the first day's discussions

G7 stages anti-nuclear gesture in Hiroshima and announces more sanctions against Russia

PHOTO/KENNY HOLSTON vía REUTERS - Joe Biden, Olaf Scholz, Rishi Sunak, Ursula von der Leyen, Charles Michel, Giorgia Meloni, Justin Trudeau, Emmanuel Macron y Fumio Kishida asisten a una sesión de fotos en el santuario de Itsukushima durante la cumbre de líderes del G7 en Hatsukaichi, prefectura de Hiroshima, en el oeste de Japón
PHOTO/KENNY HOLSTON via REUTERS - Joe Biden, Olaf Scholz, Rishi Sunak, Ursula von der Leyen, Charles Michel, Giorgia Meloni, Justin Trudeau, Emmanuel Macron and Fumio Kishida attend a photo session at Itsukushima Shrine during the G7 leaders' summit in Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima Prefecture, western Japan.

The G7 leaders today staged their rejection of the use of nuclear weapons during their visit to Hiroshima, the first city to suffer the horrors of an atomic bombing, and announced a new round of sanctions against Moscow.

The leaders of the Group of Seven, which includes three nuclear powers (the United States, France and the United Kingdom), visited the Hiroshima Peace Park and Museum in western Japan for the first time together, before kicking off the 49th summit of the forum in Hiroshima.

The war in Ukraine was the main topic of discussion on the first day, which was marked by confusion over the possible attendance of Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenski in Hiroshima, in the face of contradictory information from Kiev and G7 sources.

Historic and emotional visit

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida wants nuclear disarmament to be a major theme of the summit, which he is hosting, and to this end he led his G7 colleagues around the facilities dedicated to paying tribute to the hundreds of thousands of people who perished in the bombing of the city by the United States on 6 August 1945.

Kishida spent more time during the visit talking with US President Joe Biden and received gestures of affection from French President Emmanuel Macron, before all the leaders paid their respects in silence and with a bow at the epitaph dedicated to the dead.

British leader Rishi Sunak and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni were particularly moved, while Biden remained serious throughout the ceremony. The current occupant of the Oval Office is the second sitting US president to visit the Peace Park and Museum after Barack Obama in 2016.

The world leaders also met with a Hiroshima "hibakusha" (survivor), Keiko Ogura, 85, who was eight years old at the time of the tragedy.

Ogura has devoted most of her life to recounting her tragic experiences of the nuclear attack and recounted how on that day the city became "a sea of fire" with ghost-like figures moving around trying to leave.

The G7 leaders plan to express in their joint statement at the end of the summit their will to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons, although the expected lack of concrete steps towards this goal has been criticised by anti-nuclear organisations and by some voices in Japan, which is covered by the US nuclear "umbrella".

New sanctions on Moscow

The Group of Seven on Friday unveiled a new round of sanctions to make Russia pay for the war in Ukraine and to cut off its avenues for funding the invasion, and reaffirmed its commitment to support Kiev financially, humanitarian, military and diplomatically, in a joint statement.

This new wave of sanctions has been led by the US, Canada and the UK, which detailed their new pressure measures to coincide with the joint statement, while EU member states (Germany, France and Italy) are preparing a new package of coordinated sanctions within the EU-27 and Japan plans to announce similar measures in the near future.

The G7 leaders also underlined in the text that a 'just peace' cannot be achieved without the 'complete and unconditional withdrawal' of Russian troops, and reaffirmed their commitment to the Ukrainian president's approach to peace.

Zelenski in Hiroshima?

Without being present at the summit, and with his telematic participation tentatively scheduled for the next few days' sessions devoted to the war in Ukraine, Zelenski has become the main protagonist of the first day of the G7 meeting.

During the day there were reports that the Ukrainian leader would be attending in person. He would be in Hiroshima on Saturday and Sunday after receiving Kishida in Kiev in March, and following his recent visits to fellow G7 members France, Germany, Italy and the UK to meet with their respective leaders.

Zelenski himself announced today that he has travelled to Saudi Arabia, where the annual summit of Arab League heads of state begins, after official Ukrainian sources reported his planned trip to Hiroshima and later rectified it, stating that his participation in the summit will be by video conference.

However, other G7 sources still maintained that Zelenski will travel to Hiroshima, so his attendance remains an unknown.