Ukraine war: Putin says Russia does not reject peace talks

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he does not reject the idea of peace talks on Ukraine.

Speaking after meeting African leaders in St Petersburg, he said African and Chinese initiatives could serve as a basis for finding peace.

But Mr Putin also said there could be no ceasefire while the Ukrainian army was on the offensive.

In the hours after he spoke, Russia said a Ukrainian drone attack on Moscow had damaged two office blocks.

Flights were briefly suspended from Vnukovo Airport, south-west of the city centre, and one person was injured, Russia’s state news agency Tass reported.

Ukraine has not commented on the drone incident.

One eyewitness, who only gave her first name as Liya, told Reuters she could see fire and smoke. “We heard an explosion and it was like a wave, everyone jumped,” she said. “Then there was a lot of smoke and you couldn’t see anything. From above, you could see fire.”

On peace talks, both Ukraine and Russia have previously said they will not come to the negotiating table without certain preconditions.

President Putin gave a wide-ranging press conference in St Petersburg following a meeting with African leaders
Kyiv says it will not concede any territory but Moscow says Kyiv must accept its country’s “new territorial reality”. Russia invaded its neighbour last year and is occupying territory in the country’s south and east.

Mr Putin told the late-night press conference on Saturday that there were no plans to intensify action on the Ukrainian front for now.

He also defended the arrest of critical voices, claiming some people were harming Russia from inside.

Criticism of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine is outlawed and most prominent opposition members are behind bars or in exile.

In the wide-ranging briefing, the Russian president also told reporters that Moscow carried out some “preventive strikes” after an explosion on a Crimean bridge earlier this month.

Following the bridge incident – which left two people dead – Mr Putin vowed to respond to what he claimed was a “terrorist” act by Ukraine. Kyiv did not officially say it was responsible for the blast on the bridge, which links the occupied peninsula to Russia.

The Russia-Africa summit comes after an African contingent including leaders and representatives from seven countries met Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky and Mr Putin last month.

President Zelensky has in recent days been visiting Ukrainian special forces near Bakhmut, the city where some of the fiercest fighting of the war has been taking place.

Ukrainian authorities have said Kyiv’s troops are gradually moving toward the eastern city, which Russian forces seized in May.

Overnight the north-eastern Ukrainian city of Sumy was hit by rockets, killing one person and injuring five others, the country’s interior ministry said.

The ministry said on Telegram that a Russian missile hit an educational institution on Saturday evening. The BBC has not verified this information.

Elsewhere, two people were killed and another was injured after a missile hit “an open area” in the southern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia on Saturday, an official said.

Anatoliy Kurtiev, secretary of the city council, said the blast wave caused by the “enemy missile” blew out apartment windows and damaged an educational institution and supermarket.

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