Vladimir Putin is showing signs of desperation after a series of military setbacks, resulting in Russia lashing out with attacks on Ukraine’s capital Kyiv and other major cities, UK Prime Minister Liz Truss has said.
Following an international outcry, Ms Truss and fellow leaders of G7 nations are expected to hold crisis talks on Tuesday.
She is expected to urge fellow G7 leaders to “stay the course” in their opposition to Mr Putin.
“The overwhelming international support for Ukraine’s struggle stands in stark opposition to the isolation of Russia on the international stage,” she is expected to say on Tuesday.
“Their bravery in the face of the most brutal acts of violence has earned the people of Ukraine global admiration.
“Nobody wants peace more than Ukraine. And for our part, we must not waver one iota in our resolve to help them win it.”
Ms Truss and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke on Monday, following the wave of attacks which left at least 11 dead and 64 injured.
“The appalling attacks on civilian areas in Kyiv and elsewhere are a clear sign of Putin’s desperation,” Ms Truss said.
“Ukrainians are succeeding, and Britain will stand right behind them as we continue to provide vital military aid in Ukraine’s fight for freedom.”
Mr Zelenskyy said Ukraine counts on the UK’s “leadership in consolidating international political and defence support for Ukraine, in particular regarding the protection of our skies”.
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Ukraine has stepped up calls for western allies to provide anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems in response to the attacks.
Kyiv was targeted for the first time in months, while Russia also hit civilian areas and energy infrastructure across the country, from Kharkiv in the east to Lviv, near the Polish border.
Mr Putin confirmed the strikes were a retaliation for Ukraine’s attack on the Kerch bridge, a crossing between Russia and annexed Crimea that has strategic and symbolic importance.
He said if Ukraine continues to mount “terrorist attacks” on Russia, which invaded its neighbour in February, the Kremlin’s response will be “tough and proportionate to the level of threats”.
The attack on Kyiv resulted in explosions in the city’s Shevchenko district, a central area which includes the historic old town, as well as several government offices.
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BBC journalist Hugo Bachega was broadcasting live when the attack happened, with the sound of a missile overhead and subsequent explosion captured on his microphone.
He could be seen ducking for cover as the blast rocked the capital during his piece on BBC World News. He reached safety with his crew.
Lesia Vasylenko, a member of Ukraine’s parliament, posted a photograph on Twitter showing at least one explosion occurred near the main building of the Kyiv national university in the capital’s centre.
“What is Russia trying to hit?” she asked. “The national university? The park? Or the playground?”
A glass pedestrian bridge, a popular attraction, was also hit.
“People would have been jogging this morning,” Ms Vasylenko said.
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UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly offered the UK’s “ongoing moral and practical support” to his counterpart in Kyiv, Dmytro Kuleba.
“Russia’s firing of missiles into civilian areas of Ukraine is unacceptable,” he said.
“This is a demonstration of weakness by Putin, not strength.”
Security Minister Tom Tugendhat said that “targeting civilians is a vile act”.
“Russian war crimes start as a record of failure and disgrace,” he said.
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The UK’s ambassador to Ukraine, Melinda Simmons, said British staff in Kyiv were safe and that her thoughts are with those hurt in the city.
Mr Zelenskyy will address G7 leaders when they take part in the virtual meeting on Tuesday.
The talks are expected to emphasise the unity of opposition to Mr Putin’s campaign.