Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expects a positive response from Western allies in Brussels to his requests for a rapid increase in military aid as the country’s cities faces more Russian missile strikes.
After intense Russian missile attacks, President Zelensky appealed to the leaders of the Group of Seven nations on Tuesday for more air defence capabilities as the G7 vowed to support Kyiv for “as long as it takes.”
A US-led coalition of some 50 countries known as the Ukraine Defence Contact Group will meet in Brussels on Wednesday on the sidelines of a NATO defence ministers meeting.
“I am anticipating from our partners progress on matters of anti-aircraft and anti-missile defences and agreements on new supplies of different weapons and ammunition vital for us,” President Zelensky said in an evening address on Tuesday.
The Ukrainian military, which has recaptured significant territory from Russian forces in the past month, said on Tuesday night that Russian missile strikes had damaged more than 10 cities, including Lviv, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Zaporizhzhia.
“Over the past 24 hours, the occupiers have again resorted to mass missile strikes: more than 30 cruise missiles, seven air strikes and 25 instances of shelling,” Ukraine’s armed forces said.
The Ukrainian command said its forces killed more than 100 Russian troops in the southern Kherson region.
The activity on Tuesday was less intense than the day before when dozens of strikes killed 19 people, wounded more than 100 and knocked out power across the country in Moscow’s biggest aerial offensive since the start of its invasion on February 24.
More missile strikes on Tuesday killed seven people in the southeastern Ukrainian town of Zaporizhzhia, a presidential aide said, and left part of the western city of Lviv without power, according to local officials.
Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov celebrated the arrival from the United States of four additional High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers, whose accuracy and longer-range have allowed Ukraine to reduce Russia’s artillery advantage and fuelled the country’s recent counteroffensive.
“HIMARS time,” he wrote on Twitter, was a “good time for Ukrainians and bad time for the occupiers”.
Ukraine on Tuesday received the first of four IRIS-T air defence systems Germany promised to supply, a German defence ministry source said. The United States said it was speeding up the shipment of sophisticated NASAMS air defences to Ukraine. Washington has already provided more than $US16.8 billion ($27 billion) worth of security aid to Ukraine during the war.
The G7 – which groups the United States, Germany, France, Japan, Britain, Italy and Canada – pledged continued “financial, humanitarian, military, diplomatic and legal support … for as long as it takes” to Ukraine.
It also condemned “indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilian populations” as war crimes and said Russian President Vladimir Putin would be held to account for them.
President Putin was a “rational actor who has miscalculated significantly”, US President Joe Biden said in a CNN interview.
Moscow, which calls its actions in Ukraine a “special military operation” to eliminate dangerous nationalists and protect Russian speakers, has accused the West of escalating and prolonging the conflict by supporting Kyiv.
Kyiv and its Western backers accuse Russia of an unprovoked land grab in Ukraine.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow was open to talks with the West, a claim Washington dismissed as “posturing” because Russia has continued to strike Ukrainian cities.
In an interview on state television, Mr Lavrov said Russia was willing to engage with the United States or with Turkey on ways to end the war but had yet to receive any serious proposal to negotiate. President Zelensky on Tuesday again ruled out peace talks with Putin.
The Russian president, under domestic pressure to ramp up the war as his forces have lost ground since early September, said he ordered Monday’s strikes as a response to an explosion that damaged Russia’s bridge to annexed Crimea last weekend.
Ukrainian authorities said they exhumed the bodies of dozens of people, including civilians and a one-year-old baby, following the retreat of Russian troops from two towns in the eastern Donetsk region.