Chinese Envoy Arrives In Kyiv As Heavy Fighting Under Way In Bakhmut


(RFE/RL) — China’s special envoy Li Hui has arrived in Kyiv for talks with senior Ukrainian officials, in what is the highest-level visit by a Beijing representative to the country since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February last year.

Beijing, which has not condemned Russia’s aggression against its neighbor, said Li’s trip on May 17 is aimed at discussing a “political settlement” to the Ukraine crisis.

Western countries earlier this year dismissed a 12-point Chinese proposal calling for a de-escalation and eventual cease-fire in Ukraine — mainly because it echoed Russia’s main talking points.

Li, a former ambassador to Russia, will also visit Poland, France, and Germany on his trip, China’s Foreign Ministry has said, without providing a detailed schedule.

The visit comes as EU states are discussing a fresh package of Russia sanctions that would also take aim at Chinese and Iranian firms that support Moscow and allow export curbs on third countries that violate existing trade restrictions.

A senior adviser in Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s office told Reuters last month that Ukraine has been finding a growing number of components from China in Russian weapons used in Ukraine amid a squeeze in Western supplies caused by sanctions.

It was not clear whether Zelenskiy would meet with Li during the trip.

On the battlefield, Russia kept up the pressure on the eastern city of Bakhmut over the past 24 hours, the Ukrainian military said on May 17, as Moscow’s artillery pounded civilian objectives in the south a day after one of its heaviest wave of air attacks on Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities.

Russian forces launched 55 attacks on Ukrainian positions on Bakhmut over the past day, the General Staff said in its daily bulletin, adding that the heaviest fighting continues on the Bakhmut-Avdiyivka-Maryinka front line — the epicenter of Russia’s military push in eastern Ukraine.

Russia targeted both Ukrainian military positions and civilian objectives with 57 air strikes and launched 96 salvoes from rocket systems over the same period of time, the military said, adding that Ukrainian air defenses shot down 10 Iranian-made attack drones and six reconnaissance drones.

Russian forces shelled the southern city of Mykolayiv, wounding one person, Mayor Oleksandr Syenkevych said on May 17. A woman was wounded by shrapnel, while civilian and industrial objectives were damaged, Syenkevych said.

Amid talk of a much-anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar on May 17 said the Russian Army over the past month increased the intensity of shelling of the border areas in the Chernihiv and Sumy regions to put extra pressure on the Ukrainian military and prevent it from advancing in other directions.

On May 16, Malyar said Ukraine had recaptured some 20 square kilometers from Russian forces on the flanks of Bakhmut but had ceded more ground in the center of the city.

“At the same time, the enemy is advancing to some degree inside Bakhmut itself and is utterly destroying the city with artillery,” Malyar said on social media.

Malyar’s claims could not be independently verified.

Separately, Ukraine on May 17 denied a Russian claim that one of its Kinzhal hypersonic missiles had destroyed a U.S.-supplied Patriot defense missile in Kyiv during an extremely intense wave of air strikes the previous day.

“Do not worry about the fate of the Patriot,” Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat told state television.

“It’s impossible to destroy the system with some kind of Kinzhal [missile]…. Everything they say there should stay in their propaganda archive,”
Ihnat added.

Earlier, two U.S. officials confirmed to Reuters that it was likely a Patriot system suffered some damage, but it had not been destroyed, and U.S. and Ukrainian officials were looking into ways to repair the damage.


RFE/RL journalists report the news in 21 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established.

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