UN, G7 decry Russian attack on Ukraine as possible war crime

Russian forces showered Ukraine with more missiles and munition-carrying drones Tuesday after widespread strikes killed at least 19 people in an attack the U.N. human rights office described as “particularly shocking” and amounting to potential war crimes, Associated Press reported.

Air raid warnings sounded throughout Ukraine for a second straight morning as officials advised residents to conserve energy and stock up on water. The strikes have knocked out power across the country and pierced the relative calm that had returned to Kyiv and many other cities far from the war’s front lines.

“It brings anger, not fear,” Kyiv resident Volodymyr Vasylenko, 67, said as crews worked to restore traffic lights and clear debris from the capital’s streets. “We already got used to this. And we will keep fighting.”

The leaders of the Group of Seven industrial powers condemned the bombardment and said they would “stand firmly with Ukraine for as long as it takes.” Their pledge defied Russian warnings that Western assistance would prolong the war and the pain of Ukraine’s people.

Russia launched the widespread attacks in retaliation for a weekend explosion that damaged the Kerch Bridge between Russia and the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014. Russian President Vladimir Putin alleged that Ukrainian special services masterminded the blast. The Ukrainian government has applauded it but not claimed responsibility.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the G-7 leaders during a virtual meeting that during the past two days Russia fired more than 100 missiles and dozens of drones at Ukraine, and that while Ukraine shot down many of them, it needs “more modern and effective” air defense systems.

The Pentagon earlier announced plans to deliver the first two advanced NASAMs anti-aircraft systems to Ukraine in the coming weeks. The systems, which Kyiv has long wanted, will provide medium- to long-range defense against missile attacks.

In a phone call with Zelenskyy on Tuesday, President Joe Biden “pledged to continue providing Ukraine with the support needed to defend itself, including advanced air defense systems,” the White House said.

Zelenskyy thanked the U.S. and also Germany for speeding up the delivery of the first of four promised IRIS-T air defense systems. Ukraine’s defense minister tweeted that the German system had just arrived, and that a “new era” of air defense for Ukraine had begun.

Zelenskyy also urged the G-7 leaders to respond “symmetrically” to the attacks on the Ukrainian energy sector by doing more to stop Russia from profiting off its exports of oil and gas.

“Such steps can bring peace closer,” he said. “They will encourage the terrorist state to think about peace, about the unprofitability of war.”

Ukrainian officials said the diffuse strikes on power plants and civilian areas made no “practical military sense.” However, Putin’s supporters had urged the Kremlin for weeks to take tougher action in Ukraine and criticized the Russian military for a series of embarrassing battlefield setbacks.

Pro-Kremlin pundits lauded the attacks as an appropriate response to Kyiv’s successful counteroffensives. Many of them argued that Moscow should keep up the intensity to win a war now in its eighth month.

The head of Britain’s cyber-intelligence agency, Jeremy Fleming, said Tuesday in a rare public speech that Russia is running out of military supplies and struggling to fill its ranks.

“Russia’s forces are exhausted,” Fleming said. “The use of prisoners as reinforcements, and now the mobilization of tens of thousands of inexperienced conscripts, speaks of a desperate situation.”

Like Monday’s strikes, the bombardment Tuesday struck both energy infrastructure and civilian areas. One person was killed when 12 missiles slammed into the southern city of Zaporizhzhia, setting off a large fire, the State Emergency Service said. A local official said the missiles hit a school, residential buildings and medical facilities.

Energy facilities in the western Lviv and Vinnytsia regions also took hits. Officials said Ukrainian forces shot down an inbound Russian missile before it reached Kyiv, but the capital region experienced rolling power outages as a result of the previous day’s strikes.

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