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Russia proposes Kharkiv to Erdogan, UN chiefs meeting with Zelenskyy

#Russia #proposes #Kharkiv #Erdogan #chiefs #meeting #Zelenskyy

Russian strikes swept northeast Ukraine’s Kharkov region on Thursday, killing at least five people, hours before the first face-to-face meeting since the war began between Turkish and Ukrainian leaders.

Moscow, meanwhile, denied using heavy weapons at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, where a recent escalation in fighting has heightened fears of a nuclear catastrophe.

Kharkiv region head Oleg Synegubov said Moscow forces fired eight rockets from Russian territory around 04:30 local time (01:30 GMT), hitting the whole city.

“Three people died, including a child. Eight people, including two children, were rescued,” the emergency services said.

Synegubov released images from the scene of a strike showing the smoldering remains of several burned-out buildings and twisted debris of destroyed vehicles nearby.

Various attacks on the city of Krasnograd, southwest of Kharkiv, left two dead and two others injured in bombing raids that damaged residential buildings, he said.

“Kharkiv. 175 days of horror. Daily terror, rocket attacks on residential areas and civilians,” a senior presidential adviser, Mykhaylo Podolyak, wrote on social media.

– A “political solution” –

The strikes in the country’s war-torn east come a day after bombing raids killed at least seven people in the city and as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and UN chief Antonio Guterres met in the western city of Lviv.

The two were key brokers last month in a deal with Moscow and Kyiv that allowed grain exports to resume from Ukraine after the Russian invasion blocked key global supplies.

A spokesman for Guterres said the UN chief, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Erdogan will discuss the grain deal and “the need for a political solution to this conflict.”

He has “no doubt that the issue of nuclear power plants” will be addressed, he added.

In his regular nightly address on Wednesday, Zelenskyy said he and Guterres would “work to achieve the necessary results for Ukraine.”

The UN chief is due to travel to Odessa on Friday, one of three ports involved in the grain export deal – negotiated under the auspices of the UN with Ankara’s mediation in July.

He will then travel to Turkey to visit the Joint Coordination Centre, the body tasked with overseeing the agreement.

According to the United Nations, 21 freighters were allowed to sail under the agreement in the first half of August, transporting more than 563,000 tons of agricultural products, including more than 451,000 tons of corn.

The first war shipment of UN food aid for Africa reached the Bosphorus on Wednesday with 23,000 tons of wheat.

– “Provocation” –

Russia’s Defense Ministry, meanwhile, said Thursday its forces had not deployed heavy weapons at the Zaporizhia plant, accusing Kyiv of preparing a “provocation” at the station.

“Russian troops have no heavy weapons either on the territory of the station or in the surrounding areas. There are only guard units,” the ministry said in a statement.

Referring to the Zaporizhia power plant in his address on Wednesday, Zelenskyy said Ukrainian diplomats and scientists are in “constant contact” with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with a view to sending a watchdog mission to the occupied nuclear facility.

“The Russian army must withdraw from the territory of the nuclear power plant and all adjacent areas and remove its military equipment from the power plant,” he added. “This must be done without conditions and as quickly as possible.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg earlier Wednesday said Russia’s seizure of the facility “poses a serious threat to the safety of this facility (and) increases the risk of a nuclear accident or incident.”

Stoltenberg also called for a Russian withdrawal and IAEA inspections, and accused Moscow of “using the area around the nuclear power plant as a staging area, as a platform for artillery attacks on Ukrainian forces, and that’s reckless.”

Russian troops captured the Zaporizhia plant in southern Ukraine shortly after the invasion in March.

It’s the largest in Europe, and the uncertainty surrounding it has fueled fears of a nuclear accident to rival Chernobyl in 1986.

Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of shelling the Zaporizhia plant.

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