President Volodymyr Zelensky asked the leaders of seven major industrialized nations for more “modern and effective air defense systems” on Tuesday, a day after Russia launched an intense aerial assault against civilian targets in his country.
Volodymyr Zelensky has appealed for international help with building a missile defence shield, after Russian air attacks several Ukrainian cities killed and wounded civilians and damaged electricity infrastructure.
Zelensky speaking to an emergency meeting of the Group of Seven countries on Tuesday, called on world leaders to step up their contributions to the war effort, warning that Russian President Vladimir Putin “still has room for further escalation.”
“I am asking you to strengthen the overall effort to help financially with the creation of an air shield for Ukraine,” Mr. Zelensky said at the start of the video conference. “When Ukraine receives a sufficient quantity of modern and effective air defence systems, the key element of Russia’s terror, rocket strikes, will cease to work.”
The White House vowed to get Mr. Zelensky more missile defence systems capable of taking down Russian cruise missiles.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mr. Zelensky had a one-on-one conversation on Monday. But, during a news conference on Tuesday, Mr. Trudeau did not directly address the Ukrainian leader’s request for assistance with air defence.
Instead, Mr. Trudeau reiterated an announcement by Defence Minister Anita Anand, in which she committed to contributing 40 Canadian combat engineers to a training program for Ukrainian engineers in Poland.
“We remain committed to holding this Russian regime to account and to supporting Ukraine, including financial, humanitarian sanctions and military assistance,” Mr. Trudeau told reporters. “We will continue to support Ukraine and democracy against Putin’s authoritarianism.”
Mr. Zelensky also asked the G7 countries to do more to curb Russian profits from oil and gas exports and warned that there was no realistic way to negotiate a settlement with Mr. Putin. “There can be no dialogue with this leader of Russia, who has no future,” he said.
U.S. President Joe Biden convened the summit – which included Mr. Trudeau, plus the leaders of Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and the European Union – after Russia carried out missile strikes on locations across Ukraine on Monday and Tuesday.
The Monday strikes, which killed at least 19 people and injured at least 100 more, included the capital, Kyiv. On Tuesday, Russia struck the cities of Lviv and Zaporizhzhia. Both Kyiv and Lviv are far from the war’s current front lines, marking an apparent effort by Russia to demonstrate the range of its ability to threaten Ukraine’s home front.
The attacks appeared targeted at energy infrastructure. They knocked out electricity at a time of colder temperatures and shorter days.
In a statement following the hour-and-a-half session on Tuesday, the G7 vowed to support Ukraine’s defence “as long as it takes,” defying Russian threats to escalate the conflict in a bid to make Western countries back off.
The G7 warned that “indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilian populations constitute a war crime” and vowed to hold Mr. Putin to account. It also promised to impose unspecified additional economic sanctions on Russia and to mete out “severe consequences” if Mr. Putin follows through on veiled threats to use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.
“We are undeterred and steadfast in our commitment to providing the support Ukraine needs to uphold its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the statement said. “We will continue to provide financial, humanitarian, military, diplomatic and legal support and will stand firmly with Ukraine for as long as it takes.”
The G7 also said it would “never recognize” Russia’s “illegal” annexation of four Ukrainian provinces: Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told a news conference the U.S. has committed to giving Ukraine “advanced air defence systems.” U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin will work out the specifics of future military aid to Ukraine with his counterparts at a NATO meeting in Brussels on Wednesday, she said. “We will not waver from our commitment to support Ukraine as long as it takes,” she said.
Mr. Biden’s administration has given Ukraine US$17.5 billion in military aid, with the latest US$625-million instalment announced earlier this month. In 2022, Ottawa has given Kyiv $626 million in military aid.
At NATO headquarters, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the military alliance will “step up” its help for Ukraine, and that NATO members will “provide more advanced air defence systems” to Kyiv. He also promised to ramp up protection of infrastructure,in response to the apparent sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipeline late last month.
“President Putin is failing in Ukraine. His attempted annexations, partial mobilization, and reckless nuclear rhetoric represent the most significant escalation since the start of the war,” Mr. Stoltenberg said. “President Putin’s veiled nuclear threats are dangerous and irresponsible.”
Mr. Stoltenberg said NATO intelligence has so far not seen any indication that Russia has marshalled its nuclear weapons for a strike. But he said the alliance was continuing to monitor the situation.
Moscow unleashed its latest fusillade, the largest aerial bombardment in months, in retaliation for the partial destruction last week of the Kerch Strait Bridge, which connects Crimea to Russia. The explosion, reportedly caused by a truck bomb and planned by Ukraine’s intelligence service, targeted a major supply route for Russia’s invasion force.
Amid Ukrainian counterattacks that have pushed back Russian forces and recaptured swaths of occupied territory in recent weeks, Mr. Putin has repeatedly threatened to escalate the war. He also ordered the annexation of the four provinces and authorized the mobilization of reserves, prompting a mass exodus of Russian men hoping to avoid the draft.