Three Killed In Air Raids And Shelling As Russia, Ukraine Intensify Attacks

[Al Jazeera] At least three people have been killed during a night of intense air raids and shelling as Russian and Ukrainian forces escalated their attacks following a strike by Kyiv on a Russian tanker in the Black Sea.

The attacks late on Saturday came as senior officials from 40 countries – including China, India and the United States – held talks in Saudi Arabia on how to end the war in Ukraine.

A final declaration is not expected from the two-day meeting.

Ukrainian officials blamed Russia for the attack on a blood centre in the eastern town of Kupiansk late on Saturday, while Moscow-installed officials accused Kyiv of a deadly shelling attack on the Russian-controlled Donetsk region.

Two people were killed and four more were wounded in the attack on Kupiansk in the Kharkiv region, said the head of the local regional military administration, Oleh Syniehubov.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian forces used a “guided aerial bomb” and described the attack as a “war crime”.

A woman in her eighties was also killed by Ukrainian shelling in Russian-held Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, the city’s Moscow-appointed mayor Alexei Kulemzin said.

The attack also set a university building in the area ablaze, according to the Moscow-installed governor of Donetsk.

Russia’s emergency situations ministry said that the blaze caused the building’s roof to collapse, but that there were no casualties.

The attacks were the latest in a day that had seen Moscow’s forces hit a Ukrainian aeronautics facility and Kyiv’s forces damage a Russian tanker in the Black Sea.

The aeronautics facility belonged to Motor Sich, a maker of plane and helicopter engines as well as other components. The site is located near the city of Khmelnytskyi in western Ukraine, about 300km (186 miles) southwest of Kyiv.

Russia said its forces had struck military airbases in the Khmelnytskyi and Rivne regions and that “all targets were hit”.

The damaged Russian tanker was a “civilian” vessel, according to officials in Moscow, who denounced Kyiv’s “terrorist attack” and pledged retaliation. Ukrainian officials, however, told the AFP news agency that the SIG tanker was transporting fuel to Russian forces fighting in their country.

The attack briefly halted traffic on the Kerch Bridge which connects the Crimean Peninsula to Russia, as well as ferry transport.

It was the second such raid in 24 hours.

Ukraine had struck the Russian port of Novorossiysk earlier on Friday.

In Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah, a two-day summit on finding a peaceful settlement to the war kicked off without Russia’s participation, though the Kremlin has said it will keep an eye on the discussions.

The meeting is part of Ukraine’s diplomatic push to build support beyond its core Western backers by reaching out to Global South countries that have been reluctant to take sides in a war that has hit the global economy.

Zelenskyy, who hopes to agree on the principles for a global leaders summit he is seeking on the issue later in the year, said it would be important to hold bilateral talks on the sidelines of the Jeddah meeting.

Speaking on Saturday, he acknowledged there were differences among the countries attending but said the rules-based international order must be restored.

“It is very important because, in such matters as food security, the fate of millions of people in Africa, Asia and other parts of the world directly depends on how fast the world will be in implementing the Peace Formula,” he said.

“I am grateful to Saudi Arabia for this platform for negotiations.”

A European Union official told the Reuters news agency there would be no joint statement after the meeting, but said the Saudis would present a plan for further talks. These include setting up working groups to discuss issues such as global food security, nuclear safety and prisoner releases.

The official described the talks as positive and said there was “agreement that respect of territorial integrity and [the] sovereignty of Ukraine needs to be at the heart of any peace settlement”.

China, which did not attend a previous round of talks in Copenhagen, sent Special Envoy for Eurasian Affairs Li Hui to the meeting, while India sent National Security Adviser Shri Ajit Doval.

China and India have kept close economic ties with Russia since the conflict began and have rejected calls to condemn Moscow for the war. Both countries have also ramped up imports of Russian oil.

Of the other countries in the BRICS group with Russia, China and India, South Africa sent President Cyril Ramaphosa’s security adviser Sydney Mufamadi, while Brazil’s top foreign policy adviser, Celso Amorim, also joined by video link.

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