Zelenskyy calls for Missile Defense System ahead of NATO talks

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Tuesday he stressed the need for a “powerful missile defense system for Ukraine to prevent Russian terrorist attacks” in talks with NATO’s leader.

The phone call with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg came ahead of the start of a summit of NATO leaders in Madrid where Ukraine is expected to be among the major topics of discussion.

“At our NATO summit we will step up support for our close partner Ukraine, now and for the longer term,” Stoltenberg tweeted after speaking with Zelenskyy. “NATO allies stand with you.”

Stoltenberg said Monday that the Western military alliance is declaring a sevenfold increase in the number of its troops on standby alert — from 40,000 to more than 300,000.

Rescue crews in central Ukraine worked Tuesday to search for survivors at a shopping center where Russian forces carried out a missile strike on Monday, killing at least 18 people.

Zelenskyy said there were more than 1,000 civilians inside the mall in the city of Kremenchuk at the time of the attack, which he called “calculated.”

“This is not an accidental hit, this is a calculated Russian strike exactly onto this shopping center,” Zelenskyy said Monday in his nightly video address. He added that the strike “is one of the most daring terrorist attacks in European history.”

Zelenskyy had said earlier on Telegram that the number of casualties is “impossible to even imagine” and said the shopping center, in a city 300 kilometers southeast of the capital, Kyiv, was “no danger to the Russian army, no strategic value.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted, “The world is horrified by Russia’s missile strike today, which hit a crowded Ukrainian shopping mall — the latest in a string of atrocities. We will continue to support our Ukrainian partners and hold Russia, including those responsible for atrocities, to account.”

U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric called the attack “deplorable” and said the U.N. Security Council would meet Tuesday at Ukraine’s request following the strike.

Leaders of the Group of Seven leading industrialized economies closed a meeting Tuesday in Germany by expressing support for Ukraine and a pledge to “continue to impose severe and immediate economic costs on President (Vladimir) Putin’s regime for its unjustifiable war of aggression against Ukraine.”

The statement said the G-7 countries would boost their efforts to address the wider impact of the war, including on global energy and food supplies.

The leaders also said they will consider ways to bar services “which enable transportation of Russian seaborne crude oil and petroleum products globally, unless the oil is purchased at or below a price to be agreed in consultation with international partners.”

They said such a plan would allow the most vulnerable countries to maintain access to Russian energy markets.

In addition to efforts to reduce dependence on Russian energy supplies, rounds of sanctions already enacted have targeted Russian energy exports to both pressure Russian leader Vladimir Putin to end the war and to try to hamper Russia’s ability to fund its war effort.(VOA)

•PHOTO: Photo collage of a shopping center where Russian forces carried out a missile strike and Volodymyr Zelenskyy