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NATO Meets To Coordinate Defense Strategy, Discuss Ukraine Assistance

Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) major democracies called a Russian missile strike on a crowded shopping center 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 wounded in the attack in the central city of Kremenchuk.

“Indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilians constitute a war crime,” the leaders said in the statement, adding that they “solemnly condemn the abominable attack” in Kremenchuk.

An earlier Russian missile strike in Lysychansk on June 27 killed eight and wounded 21 others, said Serhiy Hayday, the head of the military administration of Luhansk where Lysychansk is located. Lysychansk is the last big city still held by Ukraine in the eastern Luhansk region.

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 earlier on June 27 addressed the G7 summit, said 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 this is a fact. And this 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.”

The G7 leaders said earlier they would keep sanctions on Russia for as long as necessary and intensify international economic and political pressure on Putin and his supporters in Belarus.

The earlier statement said the G7 countries were “committed to sustaining and intensifying” sanctions and would continue to use them as needed “acting in unison at every stage.”

The statement adds that the G7 countries “will continue to provide financial, humanitarian, military, and diplomatic support and stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes.”

Live Briefing: Russia’s Invasion Of Ukraine

RFE/RL’s Live Briefing gives you all of the latest developments on Russia’s ongoing invasion, how Kyiv is fighting back, the plight of civilians and refugees, and Western aid and reaction. For all of RFE/RL’s coverage of the war, click here.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the pledges were necessary to maintain pressure on Putin.

“Imagine if we allowed Putin to get away with the violent acquisition of huge chunks of another country, sovereign, independent territory,” Johnson told the BBC. “The lessons for that would be absolutely chilling. The point I would make to people is I think that sometimes the price of freedom is worth paying.”

The G7 leaders are committed to exploring new ways to isolate Russia from participating in the global market and to crack down on evasion of existing sanctions, the statement said.

The countries pledged to take steps to further reduce their dependency on Russian energy and to expand sanctions to further restrict Russia’s access to services and technologies, particularly those supporting its armament industry, the statement said. They also pledged more sanctions on individuals responsible for war crimes.

The statement, issued by Germany, the current holder of the G7’s rotating presidency, also said the group was ready to provide more funding to help shore up Ukrainian government finances. The budget support that has been pledged and provided thus far in 2022 amounts to $29.5 billion, the statement said.

The G7 leaders said they recognized the devastating level of destruction of infrastructure in Ukraine caused by the war and stood 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 — arms that President Volodymyr Zelenskiy specifically requested when he addressed the leaders by video link earlier in the day.

Zelenskiy 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 fend off an attempted encirclement in the eastern city of Lysychansk.

Zelenskiy told the leaders that he wanted the war to end before the winter set in and battle conditions would make it tougher for his troops as they mount their fightback, several diplomats were quoted as saying by international media outlets after the speech.

Zelenskiy also asked for air-defense systems, more sanctions on Russia, and security guarantees as he addressed the summit at the Schloss Elmau in Bavaria, diplomats said, adding that the Ukrainian leader stressed the necessity to keep applying “heavy” punitive actions on Russia and “not lower the pressure” following multiple rounds of sanctions that Western allies have imposed on Moscow.

Zelenskiy also asked for help to export grain from Ukraine and for reconstruction aid, they said.

The Ukrainian military command said earlier that it had repelled Russian attacks west of Lysychansk and prevented an encirclement of the strategically important Donbas city.

“Near Verkhnyokamyanka, the defense forces inflicted significant losses on the enemy and forced them to retreat,” the Ukrainian General Staff reported. Verkhnyokamyanka is located on an important supply road only a few kilometers west of Lysychansk.

Serhiy Hayday, the head of the military administration of Luhansk, where Lysychansk is located, urged inhabitants of the city to leave immediately as Russian forces level large swaths of the town, where about 100,000 people lived before the invasion.

“The disastrous ‘Russian World’ is trying to wipe from the world’s map our history by destroying the cultural institutions and architectural monuments of the Luhansk region,” Hayday wrote on the Telegram messaging app, accusing Russian forces of already destroying more than 60 such institutions and monuments in the city.

The military command separately said on June 27 that a missile strike had hit the Odesa region in southern Ukraine, a day after Russia launched strikes against the capital, Kyiv, and other Ukrainian cities.

The command said the missile, which was fired from a Russian-type Tu-22 strategic bomber, caused six casualties including a child. It was not clear whether the authorities were reporting injuries or deaths.

“The strike in a residential area of a civilian settlement destroyed several residential and farm buildings over around 500 square meters,” the command said, adding that firefighters were still battling the flames.

Meanwhile, the United States plans to announce as soon 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 familiar with the issue.

Ukrainian officials have asked for the missile defense system known as NASAMS that can hit targets more than 160 kilometers away, the sources said.

Washington last week announced an additional $450 million in military assistance for Ukraine, giving it four more multiple launch rocket systems and artillery ammunition for other systems.

Earlier this month, the Biden administration said it was providing an additional $1 billion military aid package to Ukraine that will include additional howitzers, ammunition, and coastal defense systems.

More and more analysts envision a protracted battle in the eastern part of Ukraine, with high human and equipment losses on both sides.

Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in its daily intelligence bulletin on June 27 that, in the following weeks, Russia, which has reportedly suffered a high rate of casualties, is “highly likely” to rely increasingly on reservists.

However, British intelligence suggested that the Russian leadership “likely remains reluctant to order a general mobilization,” despite a permanent shortfall in the number of reservists who can be deployed in Ukraine.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, dpa, TASS, and AFP

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