LIVE – Updated at 06:46
Strike by Russian warplane on Russian city leaves crater 20 metres wide and injures two people.
Less than two years ago, Object No 2, a gigantic bomb shelter built underneath Samara’s vast Kubyshev Square, was being considered by Russian tourism officials as a museum site.
The original design and decor of the 1940s shelter, built on orders from Joseph Stalin about 40 metres underground with office furniture and other details from the pre-nuclear age, would have been a logical addition to the city’s subterranean attractions. As the Soviet Union’s reserve capital during the second world war, the city sits on top of a huge complex of underground bunkers, of which Object No 2 is thought to be one of the largest.
With the launch of the invasion of Ukraine and an order by Vladimir Putin to start civil defence preparation in regions across the country, thousands of Russian bomb shelters are being reviewed for refurbishment and renovation in the still unlikely – but for a while unthinkable – case of missile strikes on the Russian heartland.
For years, Samara’s bunkers, by some estimates the third most developed in Russia after Moscow and St Petersburg, have generated a cult following among the city’s urban historians and diggers, who illegally tunnel under the city, and have become the source of numerous urban legends:
Related: Putin looks back to WWII with refurb of Stalin-era bomb shelters
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is expected to run for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, is set to begin a trip abroad on Saturday taking him through Japan, South Korea, Israel and the United Kingdom.
DeSantis said in March that the Ukraine War is a “territorial dispute” and that it is not of strategic interest to the United States, a position he has since partially walked back. Those comments provoked criticism from Democrats and many Republicans, though it is a stance he shares with about half of the party’s base as well as Republican former President Donald Trump.
So, while the trip is officially billed as a trade mission, the tour is widely seen as an attempt to burnish his foreign policy credentials in the lead-up to an official announcement, expected in the late spring or early summer.
G7 considering near-total ban on exports to Russia
The G7 is considering a near-total ban on exports to Russia, Kyodo news agency reported on Friday, citing Japanese government sources.
Bloomberg news on Thursday also reported that the United States and Ukraine’s allies were considering “an outright ban on most exports to Russia”. That report said officials from G7 nations were discussing the idea before a summit meeting in Japan next month.
Asked about the Bloomberg report, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said the government was aware of it but refrained from commenting on exchanges among G7 countries and like-minded nations about possible further sanctions against Russia.
“What is important for ending Russian aggression as soon as possible is that G7 remains united for severe sanctions against Russia and strong support for Ukraine,” he told a press briefing.
China says it is ‘not inflaming Ukraine situation’
China is not inflaming the situation in Ukraine, and advocates a peaceful resolution of international disputes through dialogue and diplomacy, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang said on Friday.
China has no intention to engage in a major power competition, Qin said at the Lanting Forum in Shanghai, adding that it opposes attempts to build walls and barriers to interrupt international supply chains.
Moscow accidentally strikes Russian city of Belgorod
A Russian warplane has accidentally fired a weapon into the city of Belgorod near Ukraine, causing an explosion and damaging buildings, the Tass news agency cited the Russian defence ministry as saying.
Late on Thursday, local authorities reported a large blast in the city, which lies just across the border from Ukraine. The regional governor said two women had been injured.
“As a Sukhoi Su-34 air force plane was flying over the city of Belgorod there was an accidental discharge of aviation ammunition,” the defence ministry said, according to Tass.
Belgorod’s regional governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov, announcing a state of emergency, said on Telegram there was a crater measuring 20 metres (65ft) across on one of the main streets. Four cars and four apartment buildings were damaged, he added.
The defence ministry did not say what kind of weapon was involved, Reuters reports. The Su-34 is a supersonic fighter-bomber jet. The ministry said some buildings had been damaged and announced an investigation was already under way, according to Tass.
Video footage from the site showed piles of concrete on the street, several damaged cars and a building with broken windows. One shot showed what appeared to be a car upside down on the roof of a store.
The Belgorod region is one of several parts of southern Russia where targets such as fuel and ammunition stores have been rocked by explosions since the start of what Moscow calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine in February 2022.
Related: Russian plane accidentally strikes Russian city near Ukraine border leaving 20m crater
Welcome back to our continuing live coverage of the war in Ukraine with me, Helen Sullivan.
Our top story this morning: A Russian warplane has accidentally fired a weapon into the city of Belgorod near Ukraine, causing an explosion and damaging buildings, the Tass news agency cited the Russian defence ministry as saying.
Elsewhere, Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang has said China is not inflaming the situation in Ukraine, and advocates a peaceful resolution of international disputes through dialogue and diplomacy.
More on these stories shortly. In the meantime here are the other key recent developments in the war:
Ukraine’s future lies in Nato, the western military alliance’s chief said during his first visit to the country since Russia’s invasion 14 months ago. Jens Stoltenberg pledged continued military support for Ukraine, saying: “Nato stands with you today, tomorrow and for as long as it takes.” He invited the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to the Nato summit in Vilnius in July.
Zelenskiy said Nato needed to invite Ukraine to become a member and give it a timeframe for accession. “There is not a single objective barrier to the political decision to invite Ukraine into the alliance,” he said. “And now, when most people in Nato countries and the majority of Ukrainians support Nato accession, is the time for the corresponding decisions.”
Zelenskiy has asked Mexico for its support to organise a summit with Latin American countries to help end the Russian invasion. The appeal on Thursday follows comments by the Brazilian president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who said in China last week that Washington should stop “encouraging” the war, and that the United States and the European Union “need to start talking about peace”.
The US president, Joe Biden, and the French president, Emmanuel Macron, signalled efforts Thursday to ease tensions in the wake of the French leader’s recent remarks on Taiwan and the European security relationship with Washington. Referring to Macron’s push for China to play a role in forging a peace deal to end the war in Ukraine, a statement from his office said: “China had a role to play in contributing, in the medium term, in ending the conflict in accordance with the principles and aims of the United Nations charter.” It also said: “The two heads of state agreed on the importance of continuing to engage Chinese authorities on this basis.”
Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, will meet the UN secretary general, António Guterres, on Monday, according to Russia’s ambassador to the UN. The two last met at the G20 summit in Bali in November. According to ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, the Black Sea grain deal will be an item for the meeting on Monday.
Denmark, together with the Netherlands, is to donate 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. Denmark’s acting defence minister, Troels Lund Poulsen, said they were not Danish tanks, but tanks “which are bought in collaboration with the Netherlands”. The foreign minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, described it as “a very significant contribution”.
The admiral of Russia’s Pacific fleet has left his position after a check of its combat readiness. Admiral Sergei Avakyants left his post as commander as it was announced he will oversee a new centre for military sports training and “patriotic education”. Units from the Pacific fleet had been taking part in inspection exercises that were announced by the defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, last week.
The Financial Times has reported that a leaked US intelligence report shows that China refused a request from the Wagner mercenary group for weapons. Wagner’s request in early 2023 suggested “it had some confidence Beijing would be open to arming Moscow, going beyond other non-lethal forms of support for the military campaign provided by Chinese companies”, according to the FT.
A group of Ukrainian servicemen have been accused of treason for giving away information during an unauthorised mission that enabled Russia to attack a military airfield, Ukraine’s SBU security agency said. The SBU announced in a statement that the servicemen had attempted, “without coordination with the relevant state authorities”, to seize a Russian plane last July after its pilot said he would defect.
The US and other allies of Ukraine are considering an outright ban on most exports to Russia in an attempt to increase economic pressure on the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. The report by Bloomberg says discussions are under way ahead of the G7 leaders’ summit in May. It is thought that it will be followed by similar actions by EU member states.
The US announced $325m in new military aid for Ukraine, including additional ammunition for high mobility artillery rocket systems (Himars), advanced missiles and anti-tank mines. It is the 36th security package since the war began in February 2022.