Ukraine and its allies are preparing to mobilize global support for a peace plan to be discussed during talks that Saudi Arabia is hosting this weekend.
Ukraine and Western diplomats hope the meeting in the Saudi Arabian port city of Jeddah will be an opportunity for officials to agree on key principles to inform any peace agreement that would end Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.
About 40 countries are set to be represented at the session, but it is currently unclear whether China will be among them. China was invited to a previous round of talks in Denmark in June but did not attend.
The session is expected to begin on Friday, and the main discussions will take place on Saturday and Sunday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Wednesday he hopes this weekend’s talks will lead to a bigger “peace summit” of global leaders this fall.
Russia will not be involved in this weekend’s talks or the summit Zelenskyy has planned for the fall.
Beyond its Western backers, Ukraine hopes to garner diplomatic support from more Global South countries, including Brazil, India, South Africa and Turkey.
Part of Ukraine’s strategy to gain support from Global South countries will reportedly be to emphasize how food prices have risen as a result of Russia quitting a deal last month to permit safe passage of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea and attacking Ukrainian port facilities.
That facet of the conflict has been top of mind for U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who on Thursday pressed all countries at the United Nations to tell Moscow to stop using the Black Sea as blackmail after Russia killed the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
“Every member of the United Nations should tell Moscow, ‘Enough,'” Blinken said while chairing a U.N. Security Council meeting on famine and food insecurity caused by conflict.
“Enough using the Black Sea as blackmail. Enough treating the world’s most vulnerable people as leverage. Enough of this unjustified unconscionable war,” Blinken said.
In addition to targeting Ukrainian port facilities, Russian forces have targeted Ukrainian cultural sites.
Ukrainian officials said Russian shelling Thursday hit a historic church in the city of Kherson, wounding at least seven people.
The site of the attack was St. Catherine’s Cathedral, where Ukraine’s state emergency service said a second round of shelling wounded four emergency workers who were fighting a fire after the initial attack.
Oleksandr Prokudin, Kherson’s regional governor, said three other people were hurt aboard a trolley bus that was driving past the cathedral at the time of the shelling.
The attack on the church follows last week’s Russian missile strike that hit an Orthodox cathedral in Odesa.
At least 274 Ukrainian cultural sites have been damaged since Russia’s invasion, according to UNESCO.
In the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, officials said Russia attacked for a second consecutive day with a wave of drones but that there were no reports of injuries or damage.
Ukraine’s military said it downed 15 Iranian-made Shahed drones launched by Russia overnight.
Also Thursday, Russia reported a Ukrainian drone attack on the Kaluga region, about 150 kilometers south of Moscow.
The regional governor, Vyacheslav Shapsha, said on Telegram that Russian air defenses shot down six drones and that there were no reported casualties.