Russia said on Tuesday it launched “mass” strikes on Ukraine hours ahead of a G7 meeting expected to condemn an earlier missile blitz that Kyiv’s allies said was a mark of Moscow’s desperation.
Officials in Ukraine’s western region of Lviv said at least three Russian missiles targeted energy infrastructure and the mayor of the region’s main city, also called Lviv, said about one-third of the city was without power.
Russia’s Defence Ministry confirmed the attacks saying it had carried out massive strikes using long-range and high-precision weapons and that “all assigned targets were hit”.
The G7 meeting comes a day after Russian missiles rocked the Ukrainian capital for the first time in months. President Volodymyr Zelensky was defiant, warning his country “cannot be intimidated”.
Moscow’s forces rained down more than 80 missiles on cities across Ukraine on Monday, according to Kyiv.
Ukraine’s emergency services said on Tuesday that the overall toll had risen to 19 dead and more than 100 people wounded.
The United Nations said on Tuesday the wave of attacks may have violated the laws of war and would amount to war crimes if civilians were deliberately targeted.
Meanwhile Belarus said on Tuesday that a contingent of Belarusian its troops deploying alongside Russian forces was a “purely defensive” grouping whose aim was to defend the borders of the ex-Soviet republic closely aligned with Russia.
“We emphasise once again that the tasks of the Regional Grouping of Forces are purely defensive. And all activities carried out at the moment are aimed at providing a sufficient response to actions near our borders,” Belarusian Defence Minister Viktor Khrenin was cited as saying in a statement said.
Earlier this week the strongman leader of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, who is a close personal ally to Russian leader Vladimir Putin, announced the countries had deployed forces together but did not specify where.
NATO slams attack
Eleven members of NATO’s eastern flank on Tuesday called Russia’s recent bombing blitz across Ukraine a “war crime”, adding that any nuclear threats were “unacceptable”.
We... condemn the mass bombardments of Ukrainian cities recently carried out by Russia, which constitute war crimes under international law,” said the joint statement released by the Polish President’s office.
It was adopted by the presidents of the so-called Bucharest Nine countries, as well as Montenegro and North Macedonia – all members of the Western defence alliance.
The B9 countries include Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.
“On behalf of our states we demand that Russia immediately stop attacking civilian targets,” the heads of state said, more than seven months since Russia invaded Ukraine.
The presidents also referenced the thinly veiled threats of using nuclear weapons made by their Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
“We find any threats by Russian representatives to use nuclear weapons unacceptable,” they said.
“In this context, we reaffirm our commitment to protect our countries and allies.”