Ukraine bombarded with fresh attacks as African leaders visit Kyiv
Kyiv, Ukraine - Kyiv was reportedly bombarded in a fresh missile attack on Friday as African leaders visited Ukraine in an attempt to mediate in the nearly 16-month Russian invasion, but Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky ruled out any peace negotiations until Russian forces withdraw.
The Ukrainian air force said it shot down six cruise missiles and six Kinzhal hypersonic ballistic missiles. Falling debris in the Kyiv region damaged several residential buildings and injured six people, local authorities said.
"Russian missiles are a message to Africa: Russia wants more war, not peace," Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter.
African political leaders led by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa arrived by rail in Kyiv from Poland on Friday for a meeting with Zelensky.
The delegation has the long-shot aim of mediating a ceasefire followed by establishing a durable peace. They are due to meet with Putin in Russia this weekend.
African states have a direct interest in the conflict as many are major importers of Russian and Ukrainian grain and fertilizer. The war has led to blockades and soaring prices in both sets of commodities.
There are fears that grain prices could rise more as a result of a blockade on exports.
But Zelensky threw cold water on the suggestion of talks with Moscow.
"Allowing any talks with Russia as long as the occupier is on our soil means freezing the war, the pain, and the suffering," he said at a news conference on Friday evening after meeting with the delegation, according to the Interfax-Ukraine agency.
Zelensky demands reparations and the extradition of war criminals after the total departure of Russian troops, including from the Crimean peninsula, which was annexed in 2014.
NATO offers assistance as Putin rejects Ukraine's success on the front lines
Along with South Africa's Ramaphosa, heads of state from Senegal, Congo-Brazzaville, Zambia and the Comoros were in Kyiv, as was Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly.
South Africa in particular has faced criticism from the West for what is seen as pro-Russian policies and is suspected of supplying arms to Moscow. The country will also be the next host for a BRICS countries summit (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) this summer.
Meanwhile, Germany said it would deliver another 64 Patriot surface-to-air missiles to Ukraine, joining several other NATO allies in bolstering Ukraine's air defenses.
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius announced the missile deliveries on Friday on the sidelines of a NATO meeting in Brussels. Pistorius said the decision is important in order to provide sustained support to the Ukrainian armed forces as they try to liberate territory occupied by Russia.
On Thursday, the United States, Britain, Denmark and the Netherlands announced they would provide hundreds of additional anti-aircraft missiles for the ongoing Ukrainian counteroffensive against Russia. Those deliveries have begun and should be completed within the coming weeks, they said.
In Russia, Putin rejected reports of Ukrainian successes on the front lines.
"At no point have they achieved their goals," Putin said during an appearance at the International Economic Forum in St Petersburg.
Ukraine has been claiming minor gains in terrain in its ongoing counteroffensive for several days.
According to Ukrainian troops, they have liberated seven villages from Russian occupation and regained more than 100 square kilometers, or roughly 62 miles, of territory.
Cover photo: REUTERS