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Zelensky pleads for Ukraine ‘air shield’ after Russian onslaught

G7 Warns Of Growing 'Hybrid Threats' From Russia's War
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Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky called on Tuesday for wealthy Western nations to help Kyiv create an “air shield” after a rash of deadly Russian aerial attacks.

Zelensky, who told the G7 club of rich nations “millions of people would be grateful” for help fending off attacks from the sky, warned Russia “still has room for further escalation” after Monday’s bloody missile salvoes across Ukraine.

Following the attacks, Washington pledged to up shipments of air defences to Ukraine, while Germany promised delivery “in the coming days” of the first Iris-T missile shield reportedly capable of protecting a city.

In a week of marked escalation in the war, G7 leaders said that Belarus’s plan to deploy joint forces with Russia constituted a new instance of “complicity” with Moscow, warning Minsk to “stop enabling” Russia’s invasion.

Following talks with Zelensky, G7 leaders said they would hold Russian President Vladimir Putin to account for the attacks but did not say how.

Before the G7 meeting, the Kremlin had already said it expected “confrontation” with the West to continue.

Russia followed up the missile launches at the start of the week with further aerial attacks on Tuesday.

Officials in Ukraine’s western region of Lviv said at least three Russian missiles fired Tuesday targeted energy infrastructure forcing Kyiv to ask people to cut their electricity usage and switch off appliances at night.

Russia’s defence ministry confirmed Tuesday’s renewed attacks, saying it had carried out massive strikes using long-range and high-precision weapons and that “all assigned targets were hit”.

In Lviv, the largest city in the region of the same name, the mayor said that one-third of homes were without power.

Monday’s attacks saw Russian missiles hit the Ukrainian capital Kyiv for the first time in months.

The Ukrainian defence ministry said Monday that Russia had fired 83 missiles at Ukraine, of which its air defences shot down 52, among which were 43 cruise missiles.

Ukraine said 19 people died and more than 100 people were wounded in Monday’s more widespread strikes, while the UN said Russia’s bombardment may have violated the laws of war.

Residents across Ukraine expressed shock and rage after Monday’s onslaught.

Ksenia Ryazantseva’s suburb of Kyiv, a city of three million people that has largely been spared the violence seen on Ukraine’s southern and eastern fronts, was one of those targeted.

“We were sleeping and we heard the first explosion” by the crossroads, the language teacher, 39, told AFP.

“We woke up and went to check, then the second explosion occurred.”

Monday’s mass barrage came in apparent retaliation for an explosion at the weekend that damaged a key bridge linking Russia to Crimea, a peninsula Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

Putin blamed Ukraine for the bridge blast and warned of “severe” responses to any further attacks.

– ‘Just peace’ –

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the strikes showed Moscow was “desperate” after a spate of embarrassing military setbacks, a sentiment echoed by NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg who said they were “a sign of weakness”.

Turkey on Tuesday called for a viable ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine “as soon as possible”, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expected to meet Putin in Kazakhstan this week.

Speaking in a televised interview, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also called for a “just peace” based on Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

– ‘A profound change’ –

Ukraine’s allies have been united in their public pledges of unwavering support for Kyiv.

German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit told reporters on Monday that Chancellor Olaf Scholz had spoken with Zelensky and assured him “of the solidarity of Germany and the other G7 states”.

French President Emmanuel Macron convened his defence and foreign affairs ministers over the strikes, which he said signalled “a profound change in the nature of this war”.

US President Joe Biden condemned Monday’s attacks in stark terms, saying they demonstrated “the utter brutality” of Putin’s “illegal war”.

Putin meanwhile told the head of the UN’s nuclear energy watchdog Rafael Grossi that he was “open to dialogue” on the future of the Russian-controlled nuclear plant in the Ukrainian region of Zaporizhzhia.

Fighting around the facility for months has raised fears of a nuclear accident.

Ukraine’s state nuclear energy agency on Tuesday accused Russian forces of detaining and mistreating another senior official at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.

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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French state-owned international news agency based in Paris. It is the world's oldest news agency, having been founded in 1835 as Havas.

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