Ukraine leader asking G7 for air defence weapons after Russian strikes


  • G7 leaders to discuss Ukraine later on Tuesday
  • Expected to review Kyiv’s request for air defence systems
  • May also warn Belarus against closer involvement
  • Russia says it will respond to greater Western aid

KYIV, Oct 11 (Reuters) – President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was asking the leaders of the G7 group of nations to urgently supply Ukraine with air defence weapons on Tuesday, after Russia rained down cruise missiles on cities across the country in a new escalation of the war.

More missile strikes killed at least one person in the southeastern town of Zaporizhzhia and left part of the Western city of Lviv without power, local officials said. Air raid sirens earlier wailed across Ukraine for a second day.

Other parts of the country remained blacked out after the cruise missile attacks on Monday which officials said killed 19 people in the biggest air raids since the start of the conflict.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin, under domestic pressure to ramp up the seven-month-old war as his forces have lost ground since early September, said he ordered the strikes as revenge for an explosion that damaged Russia’s bridge to annexed Crimea.

Kyiv and its allies condemned the attacks, which mainly hit civil infrastructure such as power stations but also landed in parks, tourist sites and busy rush hour streets.

Russia has annexed new tracts of Ukraine, mobilised hundreds of thousands of Russians to fight and repeatedly threatened to use nuclear arms in recent weeks, spreading alarm in the West. A European diplomat said the NATO defence alliance was considering convening a virtual summit to consider its response.

The White House said U.S. President Joe Biden and other G7 leaders met virtually to discuss what more they can do to support Ukraine and listened to Zelenskiy, who has called air defence systems his “number 1 priority”.

Biden has already promised more air defences, a pledge that Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said would extend the conflict.

“The mood of this summit is already obvious and predictable. The confrontation will continue,” Peskov told reporters.

The broad avenues of the capital Kyiv were largely deserted after air raid sirens resounded at the start of the morning rush hour – the same time that Russian missiles struck on Monday. Residents took cover again deep in the underground Metro, where trains were still running.

Viktoriya Moshkivski, 35, and her family were among hundreds of people waiting for the all-clear in the Zoloti Vorota station, near a park where a missile ripped a crater next to a playground on Monday.

“(Putin) thinks that if he scares the population, he can ask for concessions, but he is not scaring us. He is pissing us off,” she said as her sons, Timur, 5, and Rinat, 3, sat by her side on a sleeping bag, the younger playing with a King Kong action figure.

MORE STRIKES

Russia said it continued to launch long-range air strikes on Ukraine’s energy and military infrastructure on Tuesday, although the attacks did not seem as intense as the day before.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the main targets were energy facilities in a campaign to make life unbearable for civilians that had been planned well in advance.

“They’ve hit many yesterday and they hit the same and new ones today,” he wrote on Twitter. Hundreds of settlements around Kyiv, Lviv and elsewhere were still without power on Tuesday, Deputy Interior Minister Yevheniy Yenin told a briefing.

The governor of the southern town of Mykolayiv said Russia was firing enough to keep people in shelters. “What is this if not terror?” he said on national television.

In Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine’s sixth-largest city, apartment blocks have been struck overnight at least three times in the past week, killing civilians while they slept. Moscow has denied intentionally targeting them.

The city remained under Ukrainian control after Russia occupied most of the surrounding province, among four partially occupied regions that Moscow claims to have annexed this month.

In an overnight video address from the scene of one of the attacks in Kyiv, Zelenskiy promised that Ukraine would keep fighting.

“We will do everything to strengthen our armed forces. We will make the battlefield more painful for the enemy.”

BELARUS FEARS

G7 leaders are also expected to issue a warning to Belarus, Moscow’s closest ally, after Minsk said on Monday it was deploying soldiers with Russian forces near Ukraine in response to what it called a threat from Kyiv and its Western allies.

Belarus, whose troops have not yet crossed into Ukraine, could face more sanctions if it gets more involved, French Foreign Affairs Minister Catherine Colonna told French radio.

Russia had violated the rules of war with Monday’s attacks, she added.

Moscow has accused the West of escalating the conflict by supporting Ukraine.

“We warn and hope that they realise the danger of uncontrolled escalation in Washington and other Western capitals,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted as saying by RIA news agency on Tuesday.

The director of Britain’s GCHQ spy agency, Jeremy Fleming, said it would expect to see signs if Russia was considering deploying nuclear arms but that its ground forces were running out of supplies.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia would not turn down a meeting between Putin and Biden at a forthcoming G20 meeting and would consider the proposal if it receives one.

Putin on Tuesday met the president of the United Arab Emirates, a member of the group of oil producers known as OPEC+ that rebuffed the United States last week by announcing steep production cuts.

State news agency WAM had said President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan would push for “military de-escalation”. The Kremlin said that on Thursday, Putin would meet Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who is proposing to host peace talks.

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Reporting by Reuters bureaux; Writing by Stephen Coates, Andrew Osborn, Peter Graff; Editing by Philippa Fletcher and Nick Macfie

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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