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Ukraine’s president takes his diplomatic campaign against Russia to Arab summit, G7

By SUSIE BLANN, Associated Press
Published: May 19, 2023, 7:45am
3 Photos
This video grab shows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, arriving at the airport in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Friday May 19, 2023.
This video grab shows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, arriving at the airport in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Friday May 19, 2023. Zelenskyy announced Friday he has kicked off a visit to Saudi Arabia, aiming to "enhance bilateral relations and Ukraine's ties with the Arab world." (Saudi state TV: Al Ekhbariya via AP) Photo Gallery

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed a summit of Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia on Friday before what a senior official said would be a trip to Japan for a meeting with the leaders of the world’s most powerful democracies.

Zelenskyy has in recent months made foreign trips to shore up diplomatic support for Ukraine’s fight against Russia’s full-scale invasion almost 15 months ago and solicit more military support.

He earlier this week returned from a three-day trip to Italy, the Vatican, Germany, France and the United Kingdom.

Ukraine and Russia are squaring up for a major and potentially decisive phase in the war as Kyiv prepares an expected counteroffensive. The conflict has been bogged down in a war of attrition in recent months amid bad weather.

Zelenskyy’s office said he was invited to attend the Arab League summit in Jeddah where he met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman before holding other bilateral meetings.

They discussed Zelenskyy’s peace plan, the security situation in Ukraine and possible investments in the reconstruction of the country, a presidential statement said. Zelenskyy also invited Prince Mohammed to visit Ukraine.

Zelenskyy urged leaders at the summit to resist Moscow’s influence and consider his peace proposals, which include the withdrawal of the Kremlin’s forces from occupied areas of Ukraine.

“I’m more than sure that none of you will agree to surrender a third of your country to the invaders,” Zelenskyy said in English.

“Another priority is the protection of the Muslim community of Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said. “Crimea was the first to suffer from the Russian occupation, and most of those who suffer repression in occupied Crimea are Muslims.”

Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev accompanied Zelenskyy on the visit.

Zelenskyy will later travel to a Group of Seven summit in Japan where leaders of the world’s most powerful democracies aim to step up punishment on Russia for its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, according to Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council.

However, Danilov’s office later posted a statement backtracking on his announcement and saying Zelenskyy would appear at the G-7 summit via video link. Zelenskyy’s movements are kept secret for security reasons.

Meanwhile, Russia’s forces kept up their long-range bombardment of Ukrainian targets while drones reportedly damaged train lines behind their front line.

About 130 meters (430 feet) of railway track were damaged and trains were halted for hours after an explosion derailed eight cars of a freight train carrying grain in Russia-occupied Crimea, Russian state media reported on Friday.

Thursday’s blast prompted renewed suspicions about possible Ukrainian saboteur activity behind Russian lines.

Train traffic was also halted in northern Crimea on Thursday night after a drone hit a railway track near the town of Dzhankoi, Russia’s Baza Telegram channel reported.

Sergei Aksyonov, the Kremlin-appointed head of Crimea, said in a separate post that four Ukrainian drones were shot down overnight in the peninsula’s north. Aksyonov claimed there was no damage or casualties.

Russia overnight fired cruise missiles, drones and artillery at targets across Ukraine, killing two civilians, officials said Friday.

The attacks included an air assault on Kyiv for the second straight day and the 10th time in three weeks. The Kremlin’s forces also took aim at central, eastern and southern Ukraine, and the western Lviv region near the border with Poland.

Russia launched 22 Iranian-made Shahed drones and six Kalibr cruise missiles during the night, the Ukrainian Air Force said. It said air defenses downed 16 drones and three missiles.

The Russian shelling killed two civilians and wounded nine others in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, its Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said.

The missile attacks that have intensified recently aim to “disrupt Ukraine’s plans and preparations for active military operations during the spring-summer campaign,” according to a statement from Ukraine’s intelligence agency, published on Telegram.

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The targets are Ukraine’s military control points and barracks, supply routes and the places where ammunition, equipment, fuel are stored, it said.

Hanna Arhirova contributed to this report from Kyiv.

Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine