Zelensky in Turkey on the eve of the 500th day since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine

World News
2023-07-07 | 04:01
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Zelensky in Turkey on the eve of the 500th day since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine
Zelensky in Turkey on the eve of the 500th day since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is set to meet his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul on Friday, on the eve of the 500th day since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and just before a decisive summit for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

"We need honesty in our relationships" with NATO, Zelensky told reporters on Thursday in Prague. He added that it's time to demonstrate "the bravery and strength of this alliance."

This is the first visit of the Ukrainian head of state to Turkey since February 2022. According to Sabah, a Turkish newspaper close to the government, Zelensky and Erdogan will particularly discuss the Ukrainian grain export agreement, signed in July 2022 under the auspices of the United Nations and Turkey. Russia sees "no reason" to extend it upon its expiration on July 17th.

For months, Moscow has been complaining about obstacles preventing the implementation of another bilateral agreement, signed last July with the United Nations, regarding its fertilizer exports.

This visit also comes four days before the annual NATO summit opens in Vilnius on July 11th and 12th. Leaders of the alliance hope to persuade Ankara to lift its veto on Sweden's accession to the bloc.

Zelensky went to Prague on Thursday after a visit to Bulgaria to discuss joining the alliance and requested accelerated weapons delivery from this major ammunition-producing country, amidst a counter-offensive launched by Kiev.

Zelensky stated that Ukraine wants to receive a "clear signal" that it will join NATO, noting that Kiev "has not received an invitation in one way or another." He added, "I believe it is necessary to demonstrate the strength of the alliance and its unity."

The allies are still seeking a common approach regarding the security guarantees they are prepared to grant Kiev and also regarding the invitation for Ukraine to join NATO at the appropriate time.

Intense attack in Kyiev -
Regarding the Ukrainian counter-offensive, Zelensky admitted that it "is not fast" but Kiev forces are advancing.
The Ukrainian president told reporters in Prague that "the attack is not fast, that's a fact." He added, "Nevertheless, we are advancing, and we are not retreating like the Russians," stressing "we have the initiative now."

On the ground, the night between Wednesday and Thursday saw a Russian strike on the large city of Kyiev in western Ukraine, which is rarely targeted. It resulted in the deaths of ten people and wounded 42 others, including three children, according to a new tally announced by the mayor of Kyiev, Andriy Sadovyi, on Friday morning.

Sadovyi also announced the end of search operations amongst the rubble.

The head of the regional military administration, Maksim Kozytskyy, stated on Telegram that it was "the biggest devastating attack against civilians in the Lviv region since the start of the war."

Local authorities reported that a salvo of Russian missiles damaged more than thirty residential buildings and other structures.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared on Thursday that "this first attack in an area protected under the World Heritage convention since the start of the war on February 24, 2022, constitutes a violation of this convention." A historic building listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site was damaged.

A resident of the city, Olya, told AFP, "I woke up because of the first explosion, but we didn't have time to leave the apartment. A second explosion occurred, and the ceiling began to collapse."
"My mother died" -
Olya continued, "My mother died, and my neighbors died. So far, it seems I am the only survivor on the fourth floor."
The Russian army confirmed that it targeted "temporary dispersal" sites of Ukrainian soldiers. The Ministry of Defense stated that "all identified facilities were hit."

Nearly a month after the start of the counterattack aimed at expelling Russian forces from national territory, and 500 days after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the General Staff in Kyiv announced progress "in some places" around the stricken city of Bakhmut.

Natalia Gumenyuk, the spokeswoman for the Ukrainian army's southern front, said that "the intensity of tension is decreasing" at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant occupied by the Russian army in southern Ukraine.

While Moscow and Kyiv have been trading accusations of an imminent provocation at Zaporizhzhia, Europe's largest nuclear power plant, the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, said on Friday in Tokyo that the agency is "making progress" regarding access to the plant.

Grossi explained, "I think we are making progress," indicating that officials have visited sites including the cooling ponds but have not yet been given permission to visit the surface, where Ukraine asserts potential explosive devices have been planted.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko confirmed on Thursday that the head of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, is in Russia despite an agreement reached after his failed rebellion stipulating his transfer to Belarus.

Lukashenko added that Wagner fighters are also "in their permanent camps" in eastern Ukraine and not in Belarus "at this time."

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