Leaders of the Group of Seven industrial powers, meeting Tuesday in a crisis video conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, pledged Tuesday that they “will stand firmly with Ukraine for as long as it takes” after Russia continued its barrage of missile attacks on Ukrainian cities.
The G-7 leaders said in a statement after the virtual meeting that they had reassured Zelenskyy they are “undeterred and steadfast in our commitment to providing the support Ukraine needs to uphold its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
They said they are committed to helping Ukraine meet its “winter preparedness needs” and will continue to provide financial, humanitarian, military, diplomatic and legal support to Kyiv.
The G-7 leaders assailed Moscow for its missile strikes across Ukraine and said that “indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilian populations constitute a war crime.”
“We will hold President (Vladimir) Putin and those responsible to account,” the G-7 leaders said. The G-7 is made up of the U.S., Germany, Britain, France, Italy, Canada and Japan.
Zelenskyy urged the Western allies to impose even tougher sanctions on Russia’s energy sector to stop the flow of money from its oil and gas exports, which Moscow uses to help fund the war, now in its eighth month.
The Ukrainian leader said the tougher energy-related sanctions would be a symmetrical response to Russia’s attacks on the “energy sector and energy stability of our countries.”
“Such steps can bring peace closer,” Zelenskyy said. “They will encourage the terrorist state to think about peace, about the unprofitability of war.”
Hours before the meeting, Ukraine’s State Emergency Service reported multiple new missile strikes in Zaporizhzhia that killed at least one person.
Air raid sirens sounded in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, and other areas. The mayor of Lviv said a missile strike there disrupted power and water services.
Ravina Shamdasani, a spokesperson for the U.N. human rights office, told reporters Tuesday that Russia’s strikes “may have violated the principles of the conduct of hostilities under international humanitarian law.”
“Intentionally directing attacks against civilians and civilian objects, that is objects which are not military objectives, amounts to a war crime,” she said.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Russia is targeting energy facilities by design.
“These are war crimes planned well in advance and aimed at creating unbearable conditions for civilians — Russia’s deliberate strategy since months,” Kuleba tweeted.
Zelenskyy said Monday that Ukraine “cannot be intimidated,” and rather than instill fear, Russia’s attacks made “the whole world take notice.”
The Ukrainian leader tweeted after a phone call with U.S. President Joe Biden that air defense was his top priority, and that he was looking to the United States for leadership on a “tough stance” from the G-7 as it considers its response to Russia’s attacks.
Biden and Western allies were quick to condemn the attacks and vowed to continue to send military aid to Ukraine’s forces to help fend off Moscow’s invasion.
A White House statement said Biden told Zelenskyy the United States would provide advanced air defense systems.
Biden said in a statement earlier Monday that Russia’s latest missile launches “once again demonstrate the utter brutality of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s illegal war on the Ukrainian people.
Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov told reporters that more Western military aid for Ukraine risked further escalation and a possible clash between Russia and NATO.
Ukraine’s State Emergencies Service said Monday’s attacks killed at least 19 people. The Ukrainian military said the barrage included 84 cruise missiles and 24 drones. Most of the attacks on Kyiv hit the center of the city, including parks and tourist sites.
Putin told a meeting of his security council Monday that the strikes were in response to an attack Saturday on a bridge linking Russia to Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula Moscow illegally seized in 2014.
“It is obvious that the Ukrainian secret services ordered, organized and carried out the terrorist attack aimed at destroying Russia’s critical civilian infrastructure,” Putin said.
Ukraine has strongly suggested its security agents carried out the truck bomb attack on the bridge but has not publicly claimed responsibility. The bridge has been a major supply route for Russian operations in southern Ukraine.
Kyiv was last attacked in June. Once under pressure from advancing Russian forces, Kyiv had been relatively calm for months as fighting raged in eastern and southern Ukraine.
Some information for this story came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.