Blood bank, university hit as Russia, Ukraine intensify attacks

A blood transfusion centre, a university and an aeronautics facility in Ukraine have been damaged in deadly air raids 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 the blood centre in the eastern town of Kupiansk late on Saturday, while Moscow-installed officials accused Kyiv of using cluster munitions to damage a university in the Russian-controlled Donetsk region.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described the attack on Kupiansk in the Kharkiv region as a “war crime” and said “there are dead and wounded”.

He did not say how many were killed or injured.

Russian forces used a “guided aerial bomb” in the attack, he said, adding that rescue workers were extinguishing a fire at the scene.

“This war crime says everything about Russian aggression,” he added.

Hours after Zelenskyy’s report, the Moscow-installed governor of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, said a university building in the area was in flames due to Ukrainian shelling.

He said preliminary information indicated the cause of the fire was the controversial cluster munitions.

Al Jazeera could not verify the claim.

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 (190 miles) southwest of Kyiv.

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.

Source link