- African leaders arrive in Kyiv on a peace mission
- They hope to mediate between Ukraine and Russia
- Russia launches air strike on Kyiv, officials say
KYIV, June 16 (Reuters) – At least two explosions rocked Kyiv on Friday and air raid sirens blared as African leaders began a peace mission, hoping to mediate between Ukraine and Russia.
The peace delegation, including leaders from South Africa, Senegal, Zambia, Comoros, and Egypt, said it was pressing on with plans to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy later on Friday, before talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in St Petersburg on Saturday.
A Reuters journalist in central Kyiv heard two explosions. Mayor Vitali Klitschko also reported explosions in the central Podil district.
Another Reuters correspondent saw the smoke trail of two missiles in the sky above the capital. It was not clear if those missiles had been fired by Russian or Ukrainian air defenses.
A Reuters television crew saw the leaders arriving in Kyiv in a convoy of cars and entering a hotel to use its air-raid shelter.
The all-clear was later issued for Kyiv, and the South African presidency tweeted that the mission was “proceeding well and as planned”.
Ukraine’s air force said it had downed six “Kinzhal” ballistic missiles, six cruise missiles, and two drones. City authorities said they had received no reports of deaths or serious damage so far, but police said there were an unspecified number of casualties.
The air attack was the latest of many launched by Russia since it invaded Ukraine in February 2022. Moscow has increased their frequency since Ukraine began preparations for a counteroffensive that is now underway.
“Putin ‘builds confidence’ by launching the largest missile attack on Kyiv in weeks, exactly amid the visit of African leaders to our capital,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter. “Russian missiles are a message to Africa: Russia wants more war, not peace.”
Reuters was unable to confirm that it was the biggest air strike on the capital in weeks, and Russia did not immediately comment on the events in Kyiv.
VISIT TO BUCHA
The African leaders had begun their trip by visiting Bucha, a town outside Kyiv where Ukraine says Russian occupiers carried out executions, rapes, and torture, and where international investigators are collecting evidence of war crimes. Russia denies the allegations.
The peace mission, which includes South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Senegalese President Macky Sall, could propose a series of “confidence-building measures” during initial efforts at mediation, according to a draft framework document seen by Reuters.
The document says the objective of the mission is to promote peace and encourage the parties to agree to a diplomacy-led process.
Those measures could include a pullback of Russian troops, removal of Russian tactical nuclear weapons from Belarus, suspension of the implementation of an International Criminal Court arrest warrant targeting Putin, and relief from the Western sanctions imposed on Russia, it indicated.
An agreement on cessation of hostilities could follow, and would need to be accompanied by negotiations between Russia and the West, the document stated.
Kyiv says its peace initiative, which envisages the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian land, must be the basis for any settlement of the war.
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