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A Russian fighter jet was forced to make "an emergency drop of aviation munition" over a Russian city Thursday, causing a large explosion in a central neighborhood, according to a state news agency and local officials.
A Russian Air Force Su-34 jet was flying over the border city of Belgorod, just north of Ukraine, when it was forced to drop the explosives for reasons that are still under investigation, according to Russian news agency RIA Novosti, which cited the Russian defense ministry.
Officials have not immediately reported any casualties, Belgorod Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov said in a Telegram post.
The explosion rocked an intersection in the city's center and left a "huge impact crater" that was 20 meters (about 65 feet) wide, Gladkov said.
"Windows in a nearby apartment building were damaged, as well as several parked cars. Electricity poles were downed," he added.
An overturned car landed on the roof of a store near a residential high-rise building, according to RIA Novosti. Emergency teams are at the scene, the outlet said.
Belgorod is located about 40 kilometers (roughly 25 miles) north of the border with Ukraine.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is making it known that he believes Ukraine's “rightful place is in NATO" and pledged support from the alliance. He is visiting the country for the first time since Russia's invasion last year.
Stoltenberg and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also said they discussed Ukraine's membership to the alliance — something Russia is making clear it is against.
Here are the top headlines to know:
- Stoltenberg in Kyiv: The NATO secretary general discussed a “multiyear support initiative” with Zelensky during his visit to the country Thursday. This would help Ukraine transition from Soviet-era equipment and doctrines to “NATO standards,” Stoltenberg said. Even though Ukraine is not a member of the alliance, the bloc has played a critical role in supporting Kyiv, donating military aid and hosting refugees throughout the conflict.
- Moscow-NATO relations: Russia is using the secretary general's visit to Ukraine to reiterate that preventing Kyiv from joining NATO is one of its key goals. Already, Finland's new membership into the alliance earlier this month more than doubled NATO's land border with Russia. Zelensky said there is “no objective barrier” to political decisions on inviting Ukraine into the alliance and Stoltenberg said the topic of Ukraine’s NATO membership will be “high on the agenda” at the summit in July.
- Attacks in northern Ukraine: One woman has died and three people were wounded after Russian troops attacked the border area of Chernihiv, according to Ukraine’s Operational Command North.
- Emphasis on weapons and ammunition: Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the commander in chief of Ukraine’s Armed Forces, said he discussed “issues prioritized for Ukraine regarding weapons, material and ammunition” with Gen. Christopher Cavoli, NATO’s supreme allied commander and commander of US forces in Europe. Meantime, Russia is working to make sure its assets are ready by completing an inspection of its Pacific naval fleet Thursday, the Ministry of Defense said.
- Russian recruitment: A new video published by the Russian Ministry of Defense is calling for men to abandon civilian life and join the war effort. Since the beginning of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, propaganda videos have played a key role in Moscow's efforts to recruit fighters. Moscow's latest push comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law that created an electronic conscription registry aimed at making draft dodging harder.
- Wagner group in various conflicts: The Russian mercenary group Wagner has been supplying Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF) with missiles to aid their fight against the country’s army, Sudanese and regional diplomatic sources have told CNN. The powerful Russian mercenary group has played a public and pivotal role in Moscow’s foreign military campaigns, namely in Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed to Mexico's Congress Thursday to help defend the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
"Your vote in the UN General Assembly and other international organizations is very important," Zelensky said via video. "It is the vote to defend the principles and objectives of the UN Charter and therefore to defend the territorial integrity of Ukraine and all nations of the world."
Zelensky received a standing ovation from lawmakers before and after his speech.
US President Joe Biden discussed Ukraine with French President Emmanuel Macron in a call Thursday, according to the White House.
The leaders in the call "reiterated their steadfast support for Ukraine in the face of Russia's brutal aggression."
The two also talked about Macron's visit to China as well as "their ongoing efforts to advance prosperity, security, shared values, and the rules-based international order in the Indo-Pacific region."
“China had a role to play in contributing, in the medium term, to an end to the conflict in accordance with the principles and purposes of the United Nations Charter,” a readout of the call from Elysee Palace stated.
Both heads of state also agreed on the “importance of continuing to engage” the Chinese authorities on this basis.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres in New York on Monday, Russian state media TASS reported Thursday.
Almost all members of Lavrov’s delegation to the UN Security Council were issued visas to attend, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN Vasily Nebenzya told state television Russia 24, according to TASS.
He said visas had not yet been issued to journalists.
Earlier this week, Nebenzya said Lavrov is set to discuss the Black Sea grain deal with Guterres during his visit to New York.
Russia took over the presidency of the UN Security Council on April 1 in what Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called “a bad joke."
A group of foreign affairs committees from European parliaments on Thursday released a joint statement condemning what they called the "politically motivated" sentencing of Kremlin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza.
The statement urged his "immediate and unconditional release."
It was signed in London during the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee’s security conference, which included members from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Sweden.
Kara-Murza, a prominent Russian human rights advocate, was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Monday after publicly condemning Moscow’s war in Ukraine.
The Russian Ministry of Defense published a new recruitment video Wednesday in its latest attempt to convince Russian men to abandon civilian life and join the war effort.
The advert appears to mock men for wasting their time working as security guards, taxi drivers and personal fitness trainers. It ends with a shot of armed men in military uniforms with white smoke behind them and a large caption: "You're a real man. Be one."
The ad also advertises the monthly salary one can earn by signing a Russian military contract, starting at about $2,510.
Since the beginning of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, propaganda videos have played a key role in Moscow's efforts to recruit fighters. Videos posted on social media and aired on Russian TV try to appeal to Russian men through the narratives of patriotism, morality and upward social mobility.
Russia's efforts to shore up its forces: Moscow's latest recruitment push comes shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law creating an electronic conscription registry which aims to make draft dodging harder.
During Russia’s partial mobilization last September, men dodged the draft by leaving their registered addresses, not signing for draft letters and warning their family and co-workers from doing the same for them.
Fears of a new mobilization: When the Russian parliament approved the law Wednesday making the country's conscription program more efficient and harder to evade, it spurred fears more citizens may soon be mobilized to fight in Ukraine.
The United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence said Saturday the law signals Putin is gearing up for a long conflict ahead.
The Kremlin, meanwhile, has characterized the law as an unremarkable streamlining of Russia’s biannual conscription process.
One woman has died and three people were wounded after Russian troops attacked the border area of Chernihiv, Ukraine’s Operational Command North said on Thursday.
According to Operational Command North, troops attacked Halahanivka, a border village in the Chernihiv region four times between 11 a.m. (4 a.m. ET) and 11:15 a.m. local time (4:15 a.m. ET) “probably from a 120-mm mortar.”
“As a result of the shelling, three local residents were wounded,” Ukraine’s Operational Command North said.
“One of them received shrapnel wounds to the head. The woman died in the hospital.”
The Operational Command also said there were also two attacks in the area of Hremiachka a border village in Chernihiv region, but added there were no reported casualties among the local population or damage to civilian infrastructure.