Zelensky seeks Global diplomatic support at Arab Summit


KIEV, UKRAINE (AP) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met in Saudi Arabia on before visiting Japan to meet with the country’s leaders, according to a senior official.

President Zelensky has been traveling abroad in recent months to step up diplomatic support for Ukraine’s fight against a full-scale Russian invasion nearly 15 months ago, and to seek more military assistance.

Earlier this week, he returned from a three-day trip to Italy, the Vatican, Germany, France and the UK.

Ukraine and Russia are entering a critical and potentially decisive stage of war as Kiev prepares for an expected counterattack. The conflict has been bogged down in a war of attrition in recent months due to bad weather. Mr Zelensky’s office said Mr Zelensky was invited to the Arab League summit in Jeddah, where he met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman before holding other bilateral talks.

The president said in a statement that the talks had discussed Mr Zelensky’s peace plan, the security situation in Ukraine and possible investments in the country’s reconstruction. President Zelensky also invited Crown Prince Mohammed to visit Ukraine.

At the summit, President Zelensky urged leaders to resist Russian influence and consider peace proposals, including withdrawing Kremlin troops from occupied Ukraine.

“I am convinced that no one will agree to hand over a third of our country to the aggressors,” Zelensky said in English.

“Another priority is to protect the Ukrainian Muslim community,” Zelensky said. “Crimea was the first to suffer under Russian occupation, but most of the oppressed in occupied Crimea are Muslims.”

Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev also accompanied President Zelensky on his visit.

According to Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council, President Zelensky will then visit Japan to attend the Summit of the Seven Major Nations, where the world’s most powerful democracies will meet. leaders are planning tougher penalties for Russia’s large-scale aggression in Ukraine.

However, Mr Danilov’s office later released a statement, saying Mr Danilov retracted his own announcement and said Mr Zelensky would attend the G7 summit via video transmission. Mr Zelensky’s movements are being kept secret for security reasons.

Meanwhile, Russian forces continued to bomb Ukrainian targets from long range, with drones reportedly damaging railroad tracks behind the front line. An explosion derailed eight grain trains in Russian-controlled Crimea, damaging some 130 meters of track and halting trains for several hours, Russian state media reported on Friday.

Thursday’s blast raised renewed suspicions of possible Ukrainian sabotage behind Russia’s front lines.

Train services were also suspended in northern Crimea after a drone crashed into a railroad track near the town of Dzhankoy on Thursday night, Russian broadcaster Baza Telegram reported.

In a separate post, Kremlin-appointed head of Crimea Sergei Aksyonov said that four Ukrainian drones had been shot down overnight in the northern peninsula. Aksyonov claimed there were no damages or casualties. Russia fired cruise missiles, drones and artillery at targets across Ukraine overnight, killing two civilians, officials said Friday.

The attack also included airstrikes on Kiev for the second day in a row and the 10th in three weeks. Kremlin forces also targeted central, eastern and southern Ukraine, as well as the western Lviv region near the border with Poland.

During the night, Russia launched 22 Iranian-made Shahed drones and six Kalibr cruise missiles, according to the Ukrainian Air Force. Air defense officials said they shot down 16 drones and three missiles. Two civilians were killed and nine injured in Russian artillery shelling in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region, Governor Pablo Kirilenko said.

According to a statement by Ukrainian intelligence published on Telegram, the recent escalation of rocket attacks is aimed at “disrupting Ukraine’s planning and preparations for active military operations during spring-summer operations.”

According to the newspaper, the targets were Ukrainian military checkpoints, barracks, supply routes and locations where ammunition, equipment and fuel were stored.