Russia’s blistering missile strikes against cities across Ukraine this week represent “indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilian populations (and) constitute a war crime,” leaders of the powerful Group of Seven nations said in a joint statement Tuesday.
The leaders, in an emergency virtual meeting Tuesday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, pledged to provide his battered but unbowed nation with more financial support, weaponry and missile defense systems.
Zelenskyy urged the West to provide sufficient defensive systems for an “air shield” over Ukraine. He also urged tougher sanctions on Russia’s energy sector to stop the flow of money from its oil and gas exports.
The G-7 statement said the leaders reassured Zelenskyy that they are “undeterred and steadfast” in the commitment to providing the support Ukraine needs to uphold its territorial integrity.
President Joe Biden has vowed to provide Ukraine with more air defense systems, a pledge echoed by the other six nations – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom.
LIFE BECAME SUFFERING:Illustrated stories from the siege of Mariupol.
►Missile strikes hammered Ukrainian cities for the third day in a row Tuesday. Ukraine said it intercepted about 20 of the Russian missiles.
►The UN human rights office says Russian missile strikes across Ukraine on Monday were “particularly shocking” and could amount to war crimes.
►Japanese automaker Nissan Motor Co. says it is pulling out of Russia and plans to sell its operations to its Russian partner.
Facebook owner Meta placed on Russian terrorist list
Russian financial watchdog Rosfinmonitoring on Tuesday placed US-based social media giant Meta Platforms on its list of extremists and terrorists. It was not immediately clear what the impact would be – the actions come more than six months after Moscow’s Tverskoy Court declared Meta networks Instagram and Facebook as extremist and banned them across Russian territory.
Meta did not immediately respond to a request for comment from USA TODAY.
The March ruling stemmed in part from a Russian criminal probe that cited “illegal calls for the murder of Russian nationals” by Meta employees. Meta has said it relaxed rules against violent speech for people inside Ukraine directed at Russian military in that country. Meta does not allow calls for violence against Russian people.
NATO to conduct nuclear readiness exercises
NATO will hold a long-planned exercise next week to test nuclear readiness, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday. Stoltenberg stressed that the training was an annual event and was not related to recent attacks by Russia on Ukrainian cities.
Stoltenberg said NATO was monitoring Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear activity but saw no change in Russia’s nuclear posture.
“It would send a very wrong signal now if we suddenly canceled a routine, long-time-planned exercise because of the war in Ukraine,” he said.
Hong Kong won’t seize Russia’s luxury yacht
Hong Kong won’t seize a $500 million luxury yacht belonging to a Russian oligarch and will only implement sanctions against Russia imposed by the United Nations, city leader John Lee said Tuesday.
The luxury yacht Nord, believed to be owned by sanctioned Russian billionaire Alexei Mordashov, docked in Hong Kong waters last week. US and European authorities have seized over a dozen yachts belonging to sanctioned Russians, sending oligarchs scrambling for safe havens.
The Nord measures 464.6 feet, has two helipads, a swimming pool and 20 cabins.
Hong Kong is a major financial center for western nations, but Beijing sets Hong Kong’s foreign policy and has declined to implement sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
Lee reaffirmed his administration’s stance of not implementing sanctions imposed by the United States and the West and said he has “laughed off” US sanctions placed on him and other officials in 2020 for implementing Beijing-imposed national security laws.
The US State Department said in a statement that “the possible use of Hong Kong as a safe haven by individuals evading sanctions from multiple jurisdictions further calls into question the transparency of the business environment.”
Ukraine says power plant official kidnapped by Russians
A deputy director at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant was kidnapped by Russian forces and is being held at an unknown location, the Ukrainian nuclear energy company Energoatom said Tuesday. The company said on Telegram that it feared Valery Martyniuk was being tortured into providing personnel files of plant employees with a goal of forcing Ukrainian staffers to work for the Russian energy company Rosatom. The plant’s six reactors have been shut down for weeks.
Energoatom appealed to the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency Raphael Grossi and the world community to “take all possible measures for the immediate release” of Martyniuk.
UN considers resolution denouncing Russian ‘annexations’
The UN General Assembly will hold a historic vote this week on a resolution harshly denouncing Russia’s claim to have annexed four Ukrainian regions. The document calls Russian-orchestrated referendums in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia illegal and “incompatible with the UN Charter.” The resolution, calling on Russia to withdraw its armed forces from Ukraine’s territory, requires approval by a two-thirds vote. A similar resolution in the UN Security Council was vetoed by Russia, which has no such power in the General Assembly.
Contributing: The Associated Press