G7 says it will stand with Ukraine 'for as long as it takes'
Ukraine's president asks G7 leaders for air defence capabilities after deadly Russian strikes
Leaders of the Group of Seven industrial powers have pledged after a video conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that they "will stand firmly with Ukraine for as long as it takes."
The leaders said in a statement after Tuesday's 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 will continue to provide financial, humanitarian, military, diplomatic and legal support to Kyiv, and that they are committed to supporting Ukraine in meeting its "winter preparedness needs."
The G7 leaders condemned this week's barrage of Russian missile strikes against cities 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 statement said.
Zelenskyy seeks air defence, price cap
Meanwhile, Zelenskyy called on the G7 — comprised of Canada, the U.S., Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Japan — to give Ukraine enough air defence capabilities to stop Russia.
Speaking a day after missiles rained down on Ukrainian cities, including the capital of Kyiv, Zelenskyy called for tough new sanctions on Moscow and again ruled out talks with Putin.
Ukraine on Tuesday received the first of four IRIS-T air defense systems Germany promised to supply, a German defence ministry source said. Kyiv also expects to receive state-of-the-art U.S. air defence systems.
Zelenskyy also asked for a price cap on oil and gas, and a G7-supported international mission on the Ukraine-Belarus border.
"A tough price cap is needed for the exports of oil and gas from Russia — zero profit for the terrorist state," Zelenskyy said in a statement released on the Telegram messaging app after he joined the virtual meeting.
'It brings anger, not fear'
On the ground, Russian forces strafed Ukraine with a fresh barrage of missiles and munition-carrying drones on Tuesday, a day after widespread strikes killed at least 19 people in what the UN human rights office described as a "particularly shocking" attack that could amount to war crimes.
Air raid warnings extended throughout the country in the morning, sending some residents back into shelters after months of relative calm in Kyiv and many other cities. The earlier lull had led many Ukrainians to ignore the regular sirens, but Monday's attacks in the capital and 12 other regions gave them new urgency.
"It brings anger, not fear," said Kyiv resident Volodymyr Vasylenko, 67, as crews worked to restore traffic lights and clear debris from the city's streets. "We already got used to this. And we will keep fighting."
Kyiv and its allies condemned the attacks, which mainly hit civil infrastructure such as power stations. Missiles also landed in parks, tourist sites and busy rush-hour streets.
As Ukrainian forces grew increasingly bold following a series of counteroffensive successes, a cornered Kremlin ratcheted up Cold War-era rhetoric in the last month and fanned concerns it might broaden the war and use nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov addressed the issue Tuesday, saying Moscow would only resort to that if the Russian state faced imminent destruction. Speaking on state TV, he accused the West of encouraging false speculation about the Kremlin's intentions.
Russia's nuclear doctrine envisages "exclusively retaliatory measures intended to prevent the destruction of the Russian Federation as a result of direct nuclear strikes or the use of other weapons that raise the threat for the very existence of the Russian state," Lavrov said.
NATO to hold long-planned nuclear exercise
In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the 30-nation military alliance would hold long-planned exercises next week to test the state of readiness of its nuclear capabilities.
The exercise, dubbed "Steadfast Noon," is held annually. It involves fighter jets capable of carrying nuclear warheads but does not include any live bombs. Conventional jets, and surveillance and refuelling aircraft, routinely take part.
Asked whether it was the wrong time for such an exercise, Stoltenberg replied: "It would send a very wrong signal now, if we suddenly cancelled a routine, long-time planned exercise because of the war in Ukraine."
NATO said it was closely monitoring Russia's nuclear forces and that the allies were also boosting security around key infrastructure after recent attacks on Baltic Sea gas pipelines.
Stoltenberg said Putin's nuclear rhetoric over the war in Ukraine is "irresponsible," and he said that, "Russia knows that a nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought."
NATO as an organization does not possess any nuclear weapons. They remain under the control of three member countries — the U.S., U.K. and France.
Meanwhile, Russia's deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, warned Tuesday that Western military assistance to Kyiv, including training Ukrainian soldiers in NATO countries and feeding Ukraine real-time satellite data to target Russian forces, has "increasingly drawn Western nations into the conflict on the part of the Kyiv regime."
Echoing Ryabkov, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said continued U.S. weapons deliveries to Ukraine would prolong the fighting and inflict more damage to the country.
Asked during a conference call with reporters about Washington's intention to provide Ukraine with advanced air defence systems, Peskov said the move would "only drag the conflict out and make it more painful" for Ukraine without changing Russian goals.
Belarus assessing 'combat readiness'
Belarus, Moscow's closest ally, said it had begun an exercise to assess its "combat readiness" after ordering troops on Monday to deploy with Russian forces near its border with Ukraine. Belarus allowed Russia to use its territory to invade Ukraine but has not sent its own troops across the border.
Zelenskyy denied Minsk's claim that Ukraine planned to attack Belarus but told the G7 he wanted to make sure there was no threat from its northern neighbour, and he called for a mission of international observers to monitor the border area.
Belarus could face more Western sanctions if it gets more involved in Ukraine, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna told French radio.
As Russian forces pounded three districts around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant overnight, Ukraine's state nuclear operator said Russian forces kidnapped the plant's deputy human resources director, Valeriy Martyniuk.
Russians previously detained plant General Director Ihor Murashow and released him following pressure from International Atomic Energy Agency Chief Rafael Mariano Grossi.
With files from Reuters