Russian strikes hit Kyiv as G7 meets

Russian strikes hit Kyiv as G7 meets


Russian strikes hit a residential building in Kyiv in first attack on capital in almost three weeks.

KYIV (AFP) - Russian strikes hit a residential building in Kyiv on Sunday in the first attack on the capital in almost three weeks, Ukraine said, calling for increased support from G7 leaders meeting in Germany.

One man died and four people, including the dead victim s seven-year-old daughter, were taken to hospital following the early morning strikes, said city mayor Vitali Klitschko and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Russia denied it had hit a civilian target. Earlier, it announced strikes against three military centres in northern and western Ukraine, including one near the border with NATO and EU member Poland.

The high-profile attacks come as a week of Western diplomacy kicked off with the G7 summit in Germany, which will be followed by a meeting of NATO leaders in Spain.

Allies including US President Joe Biden -- who condemned the Kyiv attack as "barbarism" -- will take stock of their support for Ukraine and for sanctions imposed on Moscow.

Biden said NATO and the G7 were defying Russian President Vladimir Putin s wish for the West to "splinter", vowing unity in support of Ukraine.

-  More sanctions  -

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz added that the club of industrialised nations needed "to share responsibility" to deal with the fallout from the war.

The G7 talks opened on Sunday with the announcement of a ban on imports of Russian gold, but Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called for more.

He posted on Twitter a photo of an injured child being carried on a stretcher, who he said was "sleeping peacefully in Kyiv until a Russian cruise missile blasted her home".

The "G7 summit must respond with more sanctions on Russia and more heavy arms for Ukraine. Russia s sick imperialism must be defeated", he said.

Zelensky renewed calls for more weapons and air defence systems to be delivered to Ukraine and for fresh sanctions against Russia by G7 nations.

"Partners should proceed more quickly if they are really our partners and not just observers... any restriction is in reality an invitation to Russia to strike again and again," he said in his nightly message to the Ukrainian people.

Zelensky will address the G7 and the NATO summit, the week after the European Union showed its support by granting Kyiv candidate status.

-  Intimidate Ukrainians  -

Russian forces sought to encircle Kyiv in the first few weeks after the February 24 invasion, but Sunday s attack was the first strike on the capital since early June.

Klitschko said the attack was a Russian missile strike intended to "intimidate Ukrainians" ahead of the NATO summit.

But Russia s defence ministry condemned as "fake" reports that it had targeted a residential building.

A Russian missile had "hit the Artyom factory s workshops" which had already been targeted in April, it insisted. The residential building was damaged by a Ukrainian air defence missile, it said.

It was the third time since the invasion that this northwest neighbourhood had been hit. The nearby weapons factory produces air-to-air and anti-tank rockets among others.

An AFP team said there was a fire on the top three floors of the building and its stairwell was completely destroyed.

Afterwards, residents gathered at the bottom of the building, many of them in tears. One woman was still wearing a bathrobe.

"I woke up at the first explosion, went to the balcony and saw missiles falling and heard a huge explosion -- everything vibrated," 38-year-old Yuri told AFP, declining to give his surname.

Edward Shkuta, who lives next door, said there had been four missiles since 6:30 am (0330 GMT).

A building "was directly hit on the top floors and I saw wounded people coming out".

- Donbas under siege -

In recent months, the fighting in Ukraine has focused on the eastern Donbas region, which has been partially under the control of pro-Moscow separatists since 2014.

The Russians made a strategic breakthrough Saturday when they took the industrial hub of Severodonetsk, the scene of weeks of fierce battles that have left it largely destroyed.

Pro-Moscow separatists said Russian troops and their allies had entered neighbouring Lysychansk where Ukrainian forces retreated, which faces Severodonetsk on high ground across the Donets river.

Its capture would give Russia control of the entire Lugansk region in the Donbas, Ukraine s industrial heartland.

At talks on the sidelines of the G7, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron said they saw an "opportunity to turn the tide" in Ukraine, a Downing Street spokesman said.

But Johnson also cautioned Macron -- who unlike the British leader has maintained a dialogue with Putin -- that "any attempt to settle the conflict now will only cause enduring instability".

-  Massive bombardment  -

In Saint Petersburg on Saturday, Putin said Russia would deliver Iskander-M missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads to Belarus in the coming months.

He also offered to upgrade Belarus  warplanes to make them capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

Putin has referred to nuclear weapons several times since the invasion, in what the West has seen as a warning for it not to intervene.

Ukraine said it had come under "massive bombardment" Saturday morning from neighbouring Belarus which, although a Russian ally, is not officially involved in the conflict.

Zelensky warned Belarus not to get dragged into the war by Russia and become "slaves and cannon fodder" in his address on Sunday evening.