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G7 pledges to rebuild Ukraine

Europe
 The Ukrainian flag, top, flies with other European flags outside the European Parliament, July 5, 2022, in Strasbourg, France. [AP Photo]

The leaders of the Group of Seven nations reaffirmed their unwavering support and solidarity with Ukraine on Monday, pledging to meet Ukraine's urgent requirements for military and defense equipment against Russia's aggression.

In a statement by the White House, the G-7 condemned "Russia's continuous inhumane and brutal attacks targeting critical infrastructure, in particular energy and water facilities and cities across Ukraine."

The statement called these "indiscriminate attacks" a "war crime." It also condemned those who are "facilitating Putin's illegal war."

The statement came one day before a G-7 summit in Paris on postwar reconstruction for Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy joined the online meeting.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, currently president of the G-7, committed to rebuilding Ukraine's financial stability and compared the reconstruction of Ukraine to the Marshall Plan implemented by the U.S. to help Europe rebuild after World War II.

Meanwhile, Russian forces blasted eastern and southern Ukraine on Monday with missiles, drones and artillery. Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal appealed for Patriot missile batteries and other high-tech air defense systems to counter Russian attacks.

At least eight civilians were wounded Monday in a Russian rocket attack on the town of Hirnyk in the eastern Donetsk Oblast, said Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko.

Workers of the electricity supply company DTEK maintain power lines by cutting off excess branches in Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 8, 2022.

Moscow "is continuously terrorizing peaceful Ukrainians," Kyrylenko added before urging remaining residents to flee Donetsk Oblast. The area has become the epicenter of fierce fighting, and the damaged power infrastructure has left millions without power in subzero temperatures.

Massive Russian strikes against Odesa's power grid over the weekend left 1.5 million people without power and the southern port inoperative.

In his address to the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) Shmyhal requested urgent assistance of $1 billion to restore the country's devastated infrastructure.

"The main priority now is the stage of survival - quickly restoring critical infrastructure and the energy sector to get through the winter," Shmyhal told the meeting, according to media reports and his own Telegram channel.

In his nightly address Monday, President Zelenskyy said Russia will continue to target Ukraine's power grid. "Russia still hopes for blackouts. This is the last hope of terrorists," he said.

"So as long as they have missiles - and Russia still has them - please take seriously all warnings from the Ukrainian military command, from our Air Force and air alarms. At all levels, we must be prepared for any hostile intentions. And we will do everything to get through this winter," he added.

Since October, Russia has been targeting Ukraine's power grid. Zelenskyy says the attacks are war crimes targeting civilian life, while Moscow says they are militarily legitimate.

According to a Pentagon senior official, Russia will burn through its fully serviceable stocks of ammunition by early 2023. "They have drawn from [Russia's] aging ammunition stockpile, which does indicate that they are willing to use that older ammunition, some of which was originally produced more than 40 years ago," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Jan Egeland, secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said Monday he anticipates another wave of hundreds of thousands of refugees from Ukraine in Europe over the winter, because of "unlivable" conditions.

"There will be hundreds of thousands more as the horrific and unlawful bombing of civilian infrastructure makes life unlivable in too many places," Egeland told Reuters.

In its daily update on the military situation, Ukraine's General Staff said its forces had repelled Russian assaults on four settlements in the eastern Donetsk region and on eight settlements in the adjacent Luhansk region. The regions are two of four in eastern and southern Ukraine that Moscow claims to have annexed after "referendums" branded illegal by Kyiv.

Ukraine has said Russian forces are suffering huge losses on the eastern front in brutal fighting that is also taking a toll on its own troops.

"There are days when there are many heavily wounded: four or five amputations at once," Oleksii, a 35-year-old army doctor who declined to give his full name, told Reuters at a military hospital in eastern Ukraine.

At least two people were killed and five were wounded on Monday in recently liberated Kherson after what regional Governor Yaroslav Yanushevych said was "massive shelling" by Russian forces.

European Union foreign ministers are considering fresh sanctions against Russia and more money to help Ukraine's military at a meeting Monday, while the United States is pledging ongoing support for Ukraine amid Russian airstrikes on critical infrastructure.

The proposed EU package being discussed in Brussels would provide about $2.1 billion for weapons deliveries to Ukraine.

Power grid

U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths arrived Monday in Ukraine to start a four-day visit that will include stops in Mykolaiv to see housing for people displaced by Russian attacks and one in Kherson to see how local officials and the U.N. are working to provide warming centers for people who have lost heat, power and water in their homes.

A U.N. statement said Griffiths "will see the impact of the humanitarian response and new challenges that have arisen as infrastructure damage mounts amid freezing winter temperatures."

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