- African leaders arrive in Kiev on a peace mission
- They hope to mediate between Ukraine and Russia
- Officials said Russia is conducting an air strike on Kiev
KIEV (Reuters) – At least two explosions shook Kiev on Friday and sirens sounded as African leaders launched a peace mission hoping to broker between Ukraine and Russia.
The peace delegation, which includes leaders from South Africa, Senegal, Zambia, Comoros and Egypt, said it was moving ahead with plans to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky later on Friday, before holding talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in St Petersburg on Saturday.
A Reuters reporter in central Kiev heard two explosions. Mayor Vitali Klitschko also reported explosions in the central Podil region.
Another Reuters reporter saw traces of smoke from two missiles in the sky over the capital. It was not clear whether those missiles were fired by Russian or Ukrainian air defences.
A Reuters television crew saw the commanders arrive in Kiev in a convoy of cars and enter a hotel to use the air-raid shelter.
The full statement was later released for Kiev, and the South African Presidency tweeted that the mission was “progressing well and as planned”.
The Ukrainian Air Force said it shot down six Kinzhal ballistic missiles, six cruise missiles and two drones. City authorities said they had not received any reports of deaths or major damage yet, 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 the pace since Ukraine began preparations for a counterattack that is now under way.
“Putin is ‘building confidence’ by launching the biggest missile attack on Kiev in weeks, right 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 could not confirm it was the largest air strike on the capital in weeks, and Russia did not immediately comment on the events in Kiev.
The African leaders began their journey with a visit to Bucha, a town outside Kiev where Ukraine says Russian occupiers carried out executions, rape and torture, and where international investigators collect evidence of war crimes. Russia denies these allegations.
According to a draft framework document seen by Reuters, the peace mission, which includes South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Senegalese President Macky Sall, may propose a series of “confidence-building measures” during the initial mediation efforts.
The goal of the mission, the document says, is to consolidate peace and encourage the parties to agree to a process led by diplomacy.
She indicated that these measures may include the withdrawal of Russian forces, the removal of Russian tactical nuclear weapons from Belarus, the suspension of the implementation of the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court targeting Putin, and the easing of Western sanctions imposed on Russia.
The document stated that an agreement to cease hostilities could follow, and would need to be accompanied by negotiations between Russia and the West.
Kiev says its peace initiative, which provides for the withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukrainian territory, should be the basis of any settlement to the war.
Additional reporting by Dan Belichuk; Editing by Timothy Heritage and Kevin Levy
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