Ukraine updates: Explosions in Kyiv as African leaders visit

African leaders were greeted in Kyiv by air raid sirens as they arrived on a peace mission

Headed by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, the delegation visited a site of a mass grave in the town of Bucha. (photo: DW)
Headed by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, the delegation visited a site of a mass grave in the town of Bucha. (photo: DW)


Air raid sirens sounded and at least two explosions shook Kyiv on Friday as African leaders arrived in the Ukrainian capital on a peace mission.

The city's mayor Vitali Klitschko said the explosions came from Ukrainian air defenses, which Ukraine says downed 12 missiles, including six Kalibr cruise missiles and six hypersonic Kinzhal missiles, plus two drones.

Images posted by the Ukrainian Interior Ministry showed damaged homes in the wider Kyiv region.

"Russian missiles are a message to Africa: Russia wants more war, not peace," Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted.

The attacks came as the president of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, arrived in Kyiv on Friday, heading a delegation of African leaders who are seeking to mediate between Ukraine and Russia.

Ramaphosa, who is visiting Ukraine for the first time since the start of Russia's full-scale invasion of the country, will hold talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday before traveling to St. Petersburg on Saturday for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Accompanying Ramaphosa are Senegalese President Macky Sall and Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema, plus representatives of Egypt and the Comoros, as African leaders look to make the continent's voice heard in the conflict.

Ukraine's foreign minister said that African leaders should take note of Friday's air raid on Kyiv just as they arrived.

"Putin 'builds confidence' by launching the largest missile attack on Kyiv in weeks, exactly amid the visit of African leaders to our capital," Kuleba tweeted. "Russian missiles are a message to Africa: Russia wants more war, not peace."

South African President Ramaphosa's office tweeted that the African leaders' mission was "proceeding well and as planned."

Here are some of the other developments concerning Russia's war in Ukraine on Friday, June 16:

NATO working on creating Ukraine council — Stoltenberg

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg outlined agreements reached at the end of a two-day defense ministers' meeting in Brussels on Friday.

He told journalists that a framework needs to be in place for Ukraine's future security once Russia's war on the country ends.

"We all agree that Ukraine has already moved closer to NATO over the past decade," Stoltenberg said. "We agree that NATO's door is open — that Ukraine will become a member of the alliance and that this is a decision for allies and Ukraine to make. Russia does not have a veto."

Stoltenberg said the trans-Atlantic military alliance is also working on creating a Ukraine-NATO council, working to bring Ukraine closer to NATO "in practical terms."

He also commented on Russia's "dangerous rhetoric" surrounding nuclear weapons, particularly Moscow's intention to deploy nuclear weapons to Belarus, which neighbors Ukraine.

Stoltenberg said NATO is taking Russia's announcement "seriously" and that they have "seen some preparations going on" towards following through on the deliveries to Belarus.

He added, however, that while NATO remained vigilant, the military alliance does not yet see an imminent threat from Russia to deploy those weapons.

"So far, we haven't seen any changes in the Russian nuclear posture [in terms of] deployments" which would require any changes in NATO's own posture, he said.

'Highly likely' Russia behind Ukraine dam collapse

A team of legal experts say it is "highly likely" that the breach of the Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine was caused by explosives planted by Russians.

Legal staff from international human rights law firm Global Rights Compliance, which is implementing efforts to support accountability for atrocities in Ukraine, visited the Kherson region from June 10-11.

They were accompanied by Ukraine's prosecutor general and a team from the International Criminal Court (ICC).

"The evidence and analysis of the information available — which includes seismic sensors and discussions with top demolition experts — indicates that there is a high probability the destruction was caused by pre-emplaced explosives positioned at critical points within the dam's structure," a summary of preliminary findings seen by Reuters said.

This was based "not only on seismic sensors, and one of the leading open source intelligence providers, but also based on patterns of attack and other attacks that we have documented," according to senior lawyer Yousuf Syed Khan.

He said the finding that the dam was blown up by the Russian side "is an 80% and above determination."

The huge Soviet-era Kakhovka hydroelectric dam has been under Russian control since the invasion. It was breached in the early hours of June 6, unleashing floodwater across a swathe of southern Ukraine, destroying farmland and cutting off water supplies.

Germany to provide Ukraine with 64 more guided air defense missiles

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius has announced the "immediate" delivery of additional missiles for Ukraine's Patriot air defense systems.

"The Federal Government has decided to immediately provide 64 further guided missiles," said Pistorius, speaking at a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels on Friday.

He said it was "an important signal" of support for Ukraine's efforts to fend off Russian air attacks "in this particular phase of the war" – even as Russian cruise missiles targeted Kyiv.

The announcement came a day after the United States, the United Kingdom, Denmark and the Netherlands had pledged hundreds of additional air defense missiles to Ukraine, with actual logistics already underway and delivery set for the coming weeks.

Earlier this year, Germany provided the Ukrainian Armed Forces with one of its US-made Patriot surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems.

Russian troops promised bonuses for destroying Western tanks

Meanwhile on the frontline, the Russian Defense Ministry has promised bonuses for Russian troops who have destroyed NATO-supplied armor, including German Leopard tanks and US Bradley fighting vehicles.

"Payments are currently being made to servicemen of the Russian Federation Armed Forces who in the course of military operations destroyed Leopard tanks, as well as armored fighting vehicles made in the USA and other NATO countries," the ministry announced.

The ministry claimed that, up until the end of May, a total of 10,257 Russian personnel had been rewarded for destroying 16,001 items of Ukrainian and Western military equipment, with armored vehicles valued at 50,000 rubles ($596; €546) and tanks at 100,000 rubles ($1,195; €1,091).

On Sunday, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu awarded the "Hero of Russia gold star" medal to soldiers who the Kremlin said had destroyed NATO-supplied equipment being used by Ukraine in its burgeoning counteroffensive.

Putin open to solutions to 'Ukrainian problem' – Kremlin

"President Putin was and is open to any contacts to discuss possible scenarios for solving the Ukrainian problem," said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Friday, quoted by Russian news agency Interfax as at least 12 Russian missiles targeted the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.

Russia has repeatedly said it is open to negotiations on the condition that Ukraine recognize "new realities" on the ground. Russian forces continue to illegally occupy some 18% of internationally recognized Ukrainian territory where they are alleged to have committed war crimes.

Moscow claimed last autumn to have annexed four regions in eastern and southern Ukraine as well as the Crimea peninsula, which it seized in 2014.

Ukraine has its own peace plan which envisages the withdrawal of Russian troops from all Ukrainian land as a basis for any settlement.

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines