Wed, 31 May 2023

On a surprise visit to Ukraine, Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has paid respects in Bucha, where Russian forces were accused of massacring civilians last year. Chinese President Xi Jinping said Tuesday that China would prioritise ties with Russia as he prepared for a second day of talks with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Follow the day's events as they unfold on our live blog. All times are Paris time [GMT+1].

1:54pm: Japan PM Kishida visits Bucha as part of Ukraine visit

Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Tuesday visited Bucha, where Russian forces were accused of massacring civilians during their weeks-long occupation of the Kyiv-region suburb last year.

An AFP journalist in the town outside the Ukraine capital reported Kishida had arrived as part of an official visit that Ukraine's foreign ministry described as "historic".

1:33pm: Xi, Putin begin talks at Kremlin, reports Russian state media

China's President Xi Jinping arrived in the Kremlin on Tuesday to begin formal talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, images broadcast by state-television showed.

Xi entered the Kremlin on a red carpet and was greeted in a grand ceremonial hall by Putin and a delegation of senior Russian officials and a military brass band, which played the anthems of both countries.

12.53pm: Russia blames Ukraine for drone attack on oil station in border region

Russia on Tuesday accused Kyiv of a drone attack on an oil pumping station in the southern Bryansk region on the border with Ukraine, according to the regional governor.

"The Armed Forces of Ukraine, using a UAV, attacked the territory of the Novozybkov oil pumping station of Transneft. There were no casualties," governor Alexander Bogomaz said on social media.

10:40am: Gazprom supplies daily gas record to China, Russia says

Russian energy giant Gazprom said Tuesday it had reached a daily record in gas volumes supplied to China through the Power of Siberia pipeline, during a state visit to Russia by Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

On Monday, "Gazprom delivered requested volumes and set a new historical record for daily gas supplies to China," the company said in a statement, ahead of formal talks between Xi and Vladimir Putin.

10:33am: Ukraine says Russian cruise missiles destroyed in Crimea

Ukraine said Tuesday that Russian cruises missiles were destroyed in a blast on the Crimean peninsula that was annexed by Moscow in 2014, but denied responsibility for the "mysterious" incident.

"An explosion in the town of Dzhankoi in the north of temporarily occupied Crimea destroyed Russian Kalibr-NK cruise missiles as they were being transported by rail," Ukrainian military intelligence said in a statement on social media.

Russian investigators had earlier said that air defence systems repelled a drone attack at Dzhankoi and that debris from the incident damaged a shop and home and left one person injured.

"The targets of all downed drones were civilian objects," the Investigative Committee added in its statement.

10:13am: Constantinople Orthodox Church may establish presence in Lithuania to rival Moscow church

The leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church said on Tuesday he will work with Lithuania's government to potentially establish a new branch in the Baltic nation to ensure that believers would no longer be under the sole supervision of Moscow.

"Today a new perspective opens before us along with the possibility to work together for the establishment of (a branch) of the Ecumenical Patriarchate (of Constantinople) in Lithuania," Patriarch Bartholomew told reporters in Vilnius.

Lithuania's government said some of the country's Orthodox believers, including Ukrainian refugees, object to the current organisation, which is a unit of the Russian Orthodox Church.

10:10am: Xi tells Russian PM China to 'prioritise' ties with Moscow

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday during a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin described Beijing and Moscow as "great neighbouring powers" and "strategic partners," saying China would "prioritise" ties with Russia.

Xi said Chinese Premier Li Qiang would "continue to prioritise the all-round strategic partnership between China and Russia", adding that: "we are great neighbouring powers and comprehensive strategic partners".

9:19am: Xi says invited Putin to visit China this year

Chinese President Xi Jinping said Tuesday that he had invited his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to visit China this year, ahead of a second round of talks between the two leaders in Moscow, Russian news agencies reported.

"Yesterday I invited President Putin to visit China this year at a time that is convenient for him," Xi said at a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.

9:06am: Ukraine waiting for confirmation of Zelensky call with China's Xi

Kyiv is waiting to hear if a call will take place between Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky and Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in an interview published on Tuesday.

"I don't know, we are waiting for confirmation," Vereshchuk said when asked whether a call between the two leaders will take place. "That would be an important move. They have things to say to each other," Vereshchuk told the Corriere della Sera Italian daily.

7:00am: Japan says PM Kishida to visit Ukraine, meet Zelensky in show of solidarity

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will visit Kyiv for talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Japan's foreign ministry said on Tuesday, with broadcaster NHK showing Kishida boarding a train at the Polish border town of Przemysl. Kishida, as a member of the Group of Seven nations, will voice solidarity and support for Ukraine following Russia's invasion more than a year ago, the ministry said.

Kishida will show "his respect for courage and perseverance of the Ukrainian people standing up to defend their homeland", the foreign ministry said in a statement.

5:46am: Putin and Xi talks to continue Tuesday

Vladimir Putin and his "dear friend" Chinese leader Xi Jinping planned more talks on Tuesday after a Kremlin dinner where the isolated Russian president curried favour with his most powerful ally in the face of Western opposition to the war in Ukraine.

Coming just days after an international court accused Putin of war crimes, Washington denounced Xi's visit, saying it showed Beijing was providing Moscow with "diplomatic cover" to commit more crimes.

According to Rana Mitter, Professor of history of modern China at Oxford University, Beijing is trying to suggest that China may be "a new type of peacemaker in the world" and "that it's able to have conversations that traditional powers like the United States or Western Europe are unable to have".

2:14am: Ukraine says explosion in Crimea destroyed Russian missiles

Ukraine's defence ministry said on Monday that an explosion in Dzhankoi in the north of the Crimean peninsula destroyed Russian cruise missiles intended for use by Russia's Black Sea fleet.

A Russia-installed official in the peninsula, which was annexed by Moscow in 2014, said the blast was caused by drones laced with sharpnel and explosives and targeted civilian sites.

One person was injured.

A statement by the intelligence directorate of Ukraine's defence ministry said: "An explosion in Dzhankoi city in the north of temporarily occupied Crimea destroyed Russian Kalibr-KN cruise missiles as they were being transported by rail".

The statement on social media said the missiles, designed to be launched from surface ships in Russia's Black Sea fleet, had an operational range of more than 2,500 kms (1,550 mile) on land and 375 kms (233 miles) at sea.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP & Reuters)

Originally published on France24

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