Ukraine President Attends Virtual Meeting with G7 Leaders

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is meeting virtually Sunday with the Group of 7 leaders, who head the world’s largest economies.

The leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Germany and the United States are meeting with the Ukrainian leader to show their support for Ukraine as it fights off a Russian invasion that began in February. The G-7 has pledged billions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine.

Sunday’s meeting is a day ahead of Russia’s annual Victory Day celebration, commemorating the 77th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany. The holiday is celebrated across Russia with military parades.

Ukrainian officials had warned its citizens to expect increased shelling in the lead-up to Monday’s celebrations in Russia.

In his daily address Saturday, Zelenskyy decried Russia’s bombing of a museum in the Kharkiv region dedicated to 18th century philosopher and poet Hryhorii Skovoroda.

Zelenskyy said Skovoroda was a man who “taught people what a true Christian attitude to life is and how a person can get to know himself.”

Zelenskyy said, “Well, it seems that this is a terrible danger for modern Russia — museums, the Christian attitude to life and people’s self-knowledge.”

He said Russia has destroyed nearly 200 Ukrainian cultural sites.

“Today, the invaders launched a missile strike at Odesa. At a city where almost every street has something memorable, something historical,” Zelenskyy said.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “should remind every state and every nation that it is impossible to defeat evil once and for all,” Zelenskyy said.

Ukrainian officials said Sunday up to 60 people are presumed dead after Russia bombed a school in the eastern Ukrainian village of Bilohorivka. Thirty people were rescued, and two bodies were recovered from the site that was being used as a bomb shelter.

All women, children and the elderly have been evacuated from the Mariupol steel works plant besieged by Russian forces, according to Anna Chernikova, a VOA reporter in Kyiv.

The Soviet-era steel mill of Azovstal, the last holdout in Mariupol for Ukrainian forces, has emerged as a symbol of resistance to the wider Russian effort to capture swathes of eastern and southern Ukraine in the 10-week-old war.

The United Nations, which is leading the rescue effort, along with the International Red Cross, is not confirming that the operation has ended.

While under heavy bombardment at the steel plant, fighters and civilians have been trapped for weeks in deep bunkers and tunnels that crisscross the site, with little food, water or medicine.

Russian forces backed by tanks and artillery tried again Saturday to storm Azovstal, Ukraine’s military command said, part of a ferocious assault to dislodge the last Ukrainian defenders in the strategic port city on the Sea of Azov.

Mariupol has been left in ruins by weeks of Russian bombardment, and the steel mill has been largely destroyed.

The World Health Organization is gathering evidence for a possible war crimes investigation.  The agency said Saturday it has documented Russian attacks on health care facilities in Ukraine.

Reuters reports that WHO Emergencies Director Mike Ryan, on an unannounced visit in Ukraine with WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told a news conference it was the explicit responsibility of warring parties to avoid attacking health facilities, yet the WHO had documented 200 attacks on hospitals and clinics in the country.

“Intentional attacks on health care facilities are a breach of international humanitarian law and as such — based on investigation and attribution of the attack — represent war crimes in any situation,” Ryan said.

“We continue to document and bear witness to these attacks … and we trust that the U.N. system and the International Criminal Court and others will take the necessary investigations in order to assess the criminal intent behind these attacks.”

Russia has denied previous accusations by Ukraine and Western nations of possible war crimes and has also denied targeting civilians in the war.

Ryan said the 200 cases did not represent the totality of attacks on Ukrainian medical facilities, only those the WHO had verified. Kyiv has said there have been around 400 such attacks since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s armed forces Saturday released footage said to show a Russian landing ship being destroyed near Snake Island.

Satellite images taken early Saturday by Planet Labs PBC showed what appeared to be a Serna-class landing ship near Snake Island’s northern beach.

That corresponds with the video released by the Ukrainian military said to show a Bayraktar TB2 drone striking it, engulfing the vessel in flames.

Striking Snake Island would impede Russia’s efforts to control the Black Sea.

Russia’s most senior lawmaker Saturday accused Washington of coordinating military operations in Ukraine which he said amounted to direct U.S. involvement in military action against Russia.

“Washington is essentially coordinating and developing military operations, thereby directly participating in military actions against our country,” Vyacheslav Volodin wrote on his Telegram channel.

Reuters reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin will send a “doomsday” message to the West on May 9.

A Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson said Friday that Russia has no intention of deploying tactical nuclear weapons to Ukraine.

“Russia firmly abides by the principle that there can be no victors in a nuclear war, and it must not be unleashed,” Alexei Zaitsev said.

Elsewhere in Eastern Europe. U.S. first lady Jill Biden is in Slovakia on Sunday where she visited a refugee center for Ukrainians housed in a bus station. She had a long conversation with Viktoце  Kutocha and her 7-year-old daughter, Yulie. Viktoue Kutocha talked about leaving Ukraine, and how “cruel” the Russian attacks are.

Later, at a school, the first lady interacted with mothers and their children in a Mother’s Day activity.

Biden is in Eastern Europe to show support for U.S. troops and Ukraine.

Some information for this story came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Press and Reuters.

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