At least 18 dead in Russian rocket attack on shopping mall in Ukraine
Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) core democracies have branded a Russian missile strike on a crowded shopping mall in Ukraine on June 27 a war crime and vowed to hold Russian President Vladimir Putin accountable.
The leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, meeting on the second day of a summit in Germany, issued a statement after 15 people were reportedly killed and 50 injured in the downtown attack. from Kremenchuk.
“Indiscriminate attacks against innocent civilians constitute a war crime,” the leaders said in the statement, adding that they “solemnly condemn the heinous attack” in Kremenchuk.
A previous Russian missile strike in Lysychansk on June 27 left eight people dead and 21 injured, said Serhiy Hayday, the head of the military administration of Lugansk, where Lysychansk is located. Lysychansk is the last major city still held by Ukraine in the eastern region of Lugansk.
Ukraine immediately called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council. A spokesman for the Albanian mission, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council, said it would take place on June 28.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who addressed the G7 summit earlier on June 27, says Russia should be legally recognized as the largest terrorist organization in the world.
“The Russian state has become the largest terrorist organization in the world. And that’s a fact. And that must be a legal fact,” Zelenskiy said in a video. “And everyone in the world should know that buying or transporting Russian oil, maintaining ties with Russian banks, paying taxes and duties to the Russian state is giving money to terrorists. “
G7 leaders said earlier they would maintain sanctions against Russia for as long as necessary and step up international economic and political pressure on Putin and his supporters in Belarus.
The earlier statement said G7 countries were “committed to maintaining and intensifying” sanctions and would continue to use them as needed “acting in unison at every step”.
The statement added that the G7 countries “will continue to provide financial, humanitarian, military and diplomatic support and to support Ukraine for as long as necessary”.
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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the pledges were needed to keep the pressure on Putin.
“Imagine if we allowed Putin to get away with violently acquiring huge chunks of another country, sovereign and independent territory,” Johnson told the BBC. “The lessons to be learned would be absolutely frightening. What I would like to say to people is that I think sometimes the price of freedom is worth paying.”
G7 leaders pledged to explore new ways to prevent Russia from participating in the global market and to crack down on the circumvention of existing sanctions, the statement said.
The countries pledged to take steps to further reduce their dependence on Russian energy and to extend sanctions to further restrict Russia’s access to services and technologies, especially those that support its energy industry. arming, the statement said. They also promised more sanctions against those responsible for war crimes.
The statement, released by Germany, the current holder of the rotating G7 presidency, also said the group was ready to provide more funds to help shore up the Ukrainian government’s finances. The budget support that has been pledged and delivered so far in 2022 amounts to $29.5 billion, the statement said.
The G7 leaders said they recognized the devastating level of infrastructure destruction in Ukraine caused by the war and were ready to support an international reconstruction plan.
Separately, the United States said it was finalizing a weapons package for Ukraine that would include long-range air defense systems – weapons that President Volodymyr Zelenskiy specifically requested when addressing to leaders via video link earlier in the day.
Zelenskiy has urged G7 leaders to do everything in their power to end Russia’s invasion of his country by the end of the year, as Ukraine’s military says it continues to repel an attempt at encirclement in the eastern town of Lysychansk.
Zelenskiy told leaders he wanted the war to end before winter set in and that battle conditions would make it harder for his troops as they fought back, several diplomats quoted as saying international media after the speech.
Zelenskiy also demanded air defense systems, more sanctions against Russia and security guarantees as he addressed the summit at Schloss Elmau in Bavaria, diplomats said, adding that the Ukrainian leader stressed the need to continue to apply “heavy” punitive actions against Russia. and “not letting the pressure down” following multiple rounds of sanctions Western allies have imposed on Moscow.
Zelenskiy also asked for help exporting grain from Ukraine and reconstruction aid, they said.
Ukraine’s military command said earlier that it repelled Russian attacks west of Lysychansk and prevented an encirclement of the strategically important city in Donbass.
“Near Verkhnyokamyanka, the defense forces inflicted heavy losses on the enemy and forced him to retreat,” the Ukrainian General Staff reported. Verkhnyokamyanka is located on an important supply route only a few kilometers west of Lysychansk.
Serhiy Hayday, the head of the military administration of Luhansk, where Lysychansk is located, urged residents of the city to leave immediately as Russian forces level large swaths of the city, where an estimated 100,000 people lived before the invasion.
“The disastrous ‘Russian World’ is trying to erase our history from the world map by destroying cultural institutions and architectural monuments in the Luhansk region,” Hayday wrote on the Telegram messaging app, accusing Russian forces of have already destroyed more than 60 of these institutions. and monuments of the city.
The military command said separately on June 27 that a missile strike hit the Odessa region in southern Ukraine, a day after Russia launched strikes against the capital, Kyiv, and other Ukrainian cities.
The command said the missile, fired from a Russian Tu-22 type strategic bomber, killed six people, including a child. It was unclear whether authorities were reporting injuries or deaths.
“The strike in a residential area of a civilian settlement destroyed several residential and agricultural buildings over about 500 square meters,” the command said, adding that firefighters were still battling the flames.
Meanwhile, the United States plans to announce as early as this week that it has purchased an advanced medium-to-long range surface-to-air missile defense system for Ukraine, CNN and AP reported on June 27, citing sources close to the publish.
Ukrainian officials have requested the missile defense system known as NASAMS which can hit targets over 100 miles away, the sources said.
Last week, Washington announced an additional $450 million in military aid for Ukraine, giving it four more multiple rocket launcher systems and artillery munitions for other systems.
Earlier this month, the Biden administration said it was providing an additional $1 billion military aid package to Ukraine, which will include additional howitzers, munitions and coastal defense systems.
More and more analysts envisage a protracted battle in the eastern part of Ukraine, with high human and material losses on both sides.
The UK Ministry of Defense said in its daily intelligence bulletin on June 27 that, in the coming weeks, Russia, which is believed to have suffered a high casualty rate, is “highly likely” to rely increasingly on reservists.
However, British intelligence has suggested that Russian leaders “likely remain reluctant to order a general mobilization”, despite a continuing shortfall in the number of reservists who can be deployed to Ukraine.