Even as Ukraine endured a second day of intensified Russian strikes condemned by the U.N. and the Group of Seven leaders, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy outlined Tuesday a plan to end the war — and it doesn’t involve negotiating with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
Addressing an emergency virtual summit of the G-7 called after Monday’s barrage on Ukrainian power plants and civilian areas, Zelenskyy warned that Putin may yet escalate his attack now that he has ordered 2,400 Shahed drones from Iran.
“This possibility is a threat to all of us,” Zelenskyy said before presenting his three-point “peace formula.”
It calls for the West to provide weapons that would allow Ukraine to create a defensive “air shield,” protecting the country’s territorial integrity and punishing Russia for its invasion with stronger sanctions and political isolation.
“Such steps can bring peace closer,” Zelenskyy said. “They will encourage the terrorist state to think about peace, about the unprofitability of war.”
However, Zelenskyy dismissed the notion of holding peace talks with Putin, saying he’s “in the final stage of his reign” and “only believes in terror.”
The U.S. and Germany have committed to sending Ukraine advanced air-defense systems. The first of four such weapons from the Germans arrived Tuesday, when the U.N. human rights office called Russia’s blistering missile strikes “particularly shocking.”
The G-7 reiterated in a statement its steadfast support for Ukraine, warned of “severe consequences” if Russia resorted to using chemical, biological or nuclear weapons and condemned its latest assault.
“Indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilian populations constitute a war crime,” the statement said. “We will hold President Putin and those responsible to account.”
LIFE BECAME SUFERING:Illustrated stories from the siege of Mariupol.
►Jeremy Fleming, head of Britain’s electronic intelligence agency, said Tuesday that Russia is “running short of munitions” and its troops are “exhausted.”
►Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, met with Putin on Tuesday in an effort to set up a protection zone and prevent a nuclear accident at the Zaporizhzhia power plant.
►Russian missile strikes hammered Ukrainian cities again Tuesday. Ukraine said it intercepted about 20 of the missiles.
►The U.N. 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.
Putin a ‘rational actor’ but ‘miscalculated’ on Ukraine, Biden tells CNN
President Joe Biden doesn’t question the sanity of his Russian counterpart, but he believes Vladimir Putin’s objectives weren’t realistic when he launched an invasion of Ukraine in February.
More than seven months later, Russia has sustained repeated embarrassing losses on the battlefield, prompting Putin to lash out this week with a barrage of missile strikes across Ukraine that killed tens of civilians, damaged energy infrastructure and destroyed dwellings, but accomplished little militarily.
“I think he is a rational actor who has miscalculated significantly,” Biden told CNN in an interview scheduled to air Tuesday night.
Putin’s state of mind has been the subject of considerable speculation as analysts ponder whether he would take the extreme measure of using nuclear weapons in Ukraine. Putin’s actions, including ordering a highly unpopular mobilization of civilians, have seemed more desperate as the war’s momentum shifted in Ukraine’s favor.
“I think he thought he was going to be welcomed with open arms, that this was the home of Mother Russia in Kyiv … and I think he just totally miscalculated,” Biden told the network.
Facebook owner Meta placed on Russian terrorist list
Russian financial watchdog Rosfinmonitoring placed U.S.-based social media giant Meta Platforms on its list of extremists and terrorists Tuesday. It was not immediately clear what the effect of the move would be – the action comes more than six months after Moscow’s Tverskoy Court declared Meta networks Instagram and Facebook extremist and banned them across Russian territory.
Meta did not immediately respond to a request for comment from USA TODAY.
The ruling in March stemmed in part from a Russian criminal inquiry 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, longtime-planned exercise because of the war in Ukraine,” he said.
Hong Kong won’t seize Russian’s luxury yacht
Hong Kong won’t seize a $500 million luxury yacht belonging to a Russian oligarch and will implement only 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. U.S. and European authorities have seized more than a dozen yachts belonging to sanctioned Russians, sending oligarchs scrambling for safe havens.
The Nord measures more than 460 feet, and has two helipads, a swimming pool and 20 cabins.
Hong Kong is a major financial center for Western nations, but China sets Hong Kong’s foreign policy and has declined to press sanctions against Russia for its invasion of 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” U.S. sanctions placed on him and other officials in 2020 for implementing Beijing-imposed national security laws.
The U.S. 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 Ukraine nuclear energy company Energoatom said Tuesday. The company said on Telegram that it feared Valeriy 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 International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi and the world community to “take all possible measures for the immediate release” of Martyniuk.
UN considers resolution denouncing Russian ‘annexations’
The U.N. General Assembly will hold a historic vote this week on a resolution harshly denouncing Russia’s claim to have annexed four Ukraine regions. The document calls Russian-orchestrated referendums in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia illegal and “incompatible with the U.N. Charter.” The resolution, which calls on Russia to withdraw its armed forces from Ukraine’s territory, requires approval by a two-thirds vote. A similar resolution in the U.N. Security Council was vetoed by Russia, which has no such power in the General Assembly.
Contributing: The Associated Press