By Max Hunder and Jonathan Landay
KYIV (Reuters) – President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is expected to ask leaders of the G7 group of nations to urgently supply Ukraine with weapons to defend against Russian missiles, a day after Moscow launched retaliatory strikes that killed 19 people.
US President Joe Biden and other Group of Seven leaders will meet virtually later on Tuesday to discuss what more they can do to support Ukraine and hear from Zelenskiy who called air defense systems his ” priority number 1″, which Biden has already promised to deliver.
In the most widespread wave of airstrikes far from the front lines since the start of the war, Russian missiles crashed across Ukraine early Monday, hitting power generation facilities as well as non-strategic targets such than parks and tourist sites, leaving devastation, terror, and power cuts in their wake.
At least 19 people were killed and 105 injured, emergency services officials said, in an attack President Vladimir Putin said was retaliation for what he said was a Ukrainian bombing on Saturday against the Kerch bridge that connects Russia to annexed Crimea.
Kyiv has not publicly taken responsibility for what Putin called a “terrorist act” that killed at least three civilians and destroyed parts of the road section of the bridge that were used to supply Russian occupation forces with Ukraine.
Ukrainian officials reported more strikes on Tuesday, including one on the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia that killed at least one person.
Zelenskiy in a speech on Monday evening said: “We will do everything to strengthen our armed forces. We will make the battlefield more painful for the enemy.”
As many as 301 settlements in Kyiv, Lviv, Sumy, Ternopil and Khmelnytsky regions remained without power on Tuesday morning.
Faced with power outages, Ukraine halted its power exports to neighboring Moldova and the European Union, at a time when the continent is already facing a spike in electricity prices that has fueled the inflation and hampered industrial activity.
BELARUS IS AFRAID
G7 leaders could also warn Belarus, a close Russian ally, against closer involvement in the war after Minsk said on Monday it was deploying its troops with Russian forces near Ukraine in response. to what she called a clear threat to Belarus from Kyiv and its backers. in the West.
French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna told France Inter radio on Tuesday that G7 heads of state would likely warn Belarus, which is already used by Russia as a logistics base and as a platform from which fire missiles, not to get involved further.
“Russia has crossed another line with a tactic that is not to fight on the battlefield but to carry out indiscriminate bombardments and since yesterday deliberately hitting civilian targets throughout Ukrainian territory,” Colonna said.
“It’s a violation of the rules of war and international law,” she added, saying France had agreed to increase arms deliveries to Kyiv after Monday’s attack.
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister has warned that Russia will react to the West’s growing involvement in the Ukrainian conflict.
“We warn and hope that they realize the danger of an uncontrolled escalation in Washington and other Western capitals,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Tuesday, quoted by the RIA news agency. .
Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, said increased Western aid to Ukraine increased the risk of a wider war.
“Such assistance, in addition to providing Kyiv with intelligence, instructors and combat directives, leads to further escalation and increases the risks of a confrontation between Russia and NATO,” Antonov told media.
Russia suffered a diplomatic setback on Monday as the United Nations General Assembly voted to reject its call for the 193-member body to allow a secret ballot this week in a debate over whether to condemn annexations by Moscow from four partially occupied regions in Ukraine.
The president of the United Arab Emirates, a member of the group of oil producers known as OPEC+ which beat back the United States last week by announcing deep production cuts, will visit Russia on Tuesday to meet Putin and push to the “military de-escalation”, reported the UAE state news agency WAM.
(Reporting by Reuters bureaus; Writing by Stephen Coates/Andrew Osborn; Editing by Peter Graff)