China is not inflaming the situation in Ukraine, and advocates a peaceful resolution of international disputes through dialogue and diplomacy, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang said on Friday.
China has no intention to engage in a major power competition, Qin said at the Lanting Forum in Shanghai, adding that it opposes attempts to build walls and barriers to interrupt international supply chains.
A Russian warplane has accidentally fired a weapon into the city of Belgorod near Ukraine, causing an explosion and damaging buildings, the Tass news agency cited the Russian defence ministry as saying.
Late on Thursday, local authorities reported a large blast in the city, which lies just across the border from Ukraine. The regional governor said two women had been injured.
“As a Sukhoi Su-34 air force plane was flying over the city of Belgorod there was an accidental discharge of aviation ammunition,” the defence ministry said, according to Tass.
Belgorod’s regional governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov, announcing a state of emergency, said on Telegram there was a crater measuring 20 metres (65ft) across on one of the main streets. Four cars and four apartment buildings were damaged, he added.
The defence ministry did not say what kind of weapon was involved, Reuters reports. The Su-34 is a supersonic fighter-bomber jet. The ministry said some buildings had been damaged and announced an investigation was already under way, according to Tass.
Video footage from the site showed piles of concrete on the street, several damaged cars and a building with broken windows. One shot showed what appeared to be a car upside down on the roof of a store.
The Belgorod region is one of several parts of southern Russia where targets such as fuel and ammunition stores have been rocked by explosions since the start of what Moscow calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine in February 2022.
Welcome back to our continuing live coverage of the war in Ukraine with me, Helen Sullivan.
Our top story this morning: A Russian warplane has accidentally fired a weapon into the city of Belgorod near Ukraine, causing an explosion and damaging buildings, the Tass news agency cited the Russian defence ministry as saying.
Elsewhere, Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang has said China is not inflaming the situation in Ukraine, and advocates a peaceful resolution of international disputes through dialogue and diplomacy.
More on these stories shortly. In the meantime here are the other key recent developments in the war:
Ukraine’s future lies in Nato, the western military alliance’s chief said during his first visit to the country since Russia’s invasion 14 months ago. Jens Stoltenberg pledged continued military support for Ukraine, saying: “Nato stands with you today, tomorrow and for as long as it takes.” He invited the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to the Nato summit in Vilnius in July.
Zelenskiy said Nato needed to invite Ukraine to become a member and give it a timeframe for accession. “There is not a single objective barrier to the political decision to invite Ukraine into the alliance,” he said. “And now, when most people in Nato countries and the majority of Ukrainians support Nato accession, is the time for the corresponding decisions.”
Zelenskiy has asked Mexico for its support to organise a summit with Latin American countries to help end the Russian invasion. The appeal on Thursday follows comments by the Brazilian president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who said in China last week that Washington should stop “encouraging” the war, and that the United States and the European Union “need to start talking about peace”.
The US president, Joe Biden, and the French president, Emmanuel Macron, signalled efforts Thursday to ease tensions in the wake of the French leader’s recent remarks on Taiwan and the European security relationship with Washington. Referring to Macron’s push for China to play a role in forging a peace deal to end the war in Ukraine, a statement from his office said: “China had a role to play in contributing, in the medium term, in ending the conflict in accordance with the principles and aims of the United Nations charter.” It also said: “The two heads of state agreed on the importance of continuing to engage Chinese authorities on this basis.”
Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, will meet the UN secretary general, António Guterres, on Monday, according to Russia’s ambassador to the UN. The two last met at the G20 summit in Bali in November. According to ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, the Black Sea grain deal will be an item for the meeting on Monday.
Denmark, together with the Netherlands, is to donate 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. Denmark’s acting defence minister, Troels Lund Poulsen, said they were not Danish tanks, but tanks “which are bought in collaboration with the Netherlands”. The foreign minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, described it as “a very significant contribution”.
The admiral of Russia’s Pacific fleet has left his position after a check of its combat readiness. Admiral Sergei Avakyants left his post as commander as it was announced he will oversee a new centre for military sports training and “patriotic education”. Units from the Pacific fleet had been taking part in inspection exercises that were announced by the defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, last week.
The Financial Times has reported that a leaked US intelligence report shows that China refused a request from the Wagner mercenary group for weapons. Wagner’s request in early 2023 suggested “it had some confidence Beijing would be open to arming Moscow, going beyond other non-lethal forms of support for the military campaign provided by Chinese companies”, according to the FT.
A group of Ukrainian servicemen have been accused of treason for giving away information during an unauthorised mission that enabled Russia to attack a military airfield, Ukraine’s SBU security agency said. The SBU announced in a statement that the servicemen had attempted, “without coordination with the relevant state authorities”, to seize a Russian plane last July after its pilot said he would defect.
The US and other allies of Ukraine are considering an outright ban on most exports to Russia in an attempt to increase economic pressure on the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. The report by Bloomberg says discussions are under way ahead of the G7 leaders’ summit in May. It is thought that it will be followed by similar actions by EU member states.
The US announced $325m in new military aid for Ukraine, including additional ammunition for high mobility artillery rocket systems (Himars), advanced missiles and anti-tank mines. It is the 36th security package since the war began in February 2022.