“I know the current era is not of war,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the Russian leader in televised commentary when they met in Uzbekistan on Friday. “We have discussed this with you several times over the phone, that democracy and dialogue affect the whole world.”
At the same summit a day earlier, Putin acknowledged China’s unspecified “questions and concerns” over the war in Ukraine, while thanking President Xi Jinping for Beijing’s “balanced position” in the conflict.
The hasty withdrawal of Russian troops this month from parts of a northeastern region they occupied early in the war, along with rare public reservations from key allies, underlined the challenges Putin faces on all fronts. Both China and India have maintained strong ties with Russia and have sought to remain neutral towards Ukraine.
Xi expressed his support for Russia’s “core interests” in a statement, but also wanted to work together to “inject stability” into world affairs. Modi said he wanted to discuss “how we can move forward on the path of peace”, adding that the biggest concerns facing the world are the problems of food security, fuel security and fertilizers.
“We have to find a way out and you too have to contribute to that,” Modi stressed in a rare public rebuke.
The comments cast a shadow over a summit that Putin had hoped would polish his diplomatic status and show he was not so internationally isolated.
On the battlefield, Western defense officials and analysts said on Saturday that Russian forces were apparently setting up a new line of defense in northeast Ukraine after Kiev’s troops broke through the previous one.
The British Ministry of Defense said the new front line is likely to lie between the Oskil River and Svatove, 150 kilometers (90 miles) southeast of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city.
The new line emerged after the Ukrainian counter-offensive punched a hole through the war’s previous front line, allowing Kiev’s soldiers to recapture large swaths of land in the northeastern region of Kharkov, which borders Russia.
After Russian troops withdrew from the city of Izium, Ukrainian authorities discovered a mass grave, one of the largest found to date.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said there were more than 440 graves at the site containing the bodies of hundreds of civilians, adults and children, as well as soldiers, and some had been tortured, shot or killed by artillery shelling. He cited evidence of atrocities, such as a body with a rope around its neck and broken arms.
“Torture was a widespread practice in the occupied territory. That’s what the Nazis did. That’s what (the Russians) are doing,” Zelensky said in his overnight video address on Saturday. “We will establish the identities of all those who tortured, those who mocked, who brought this atrocity of Russia here to Ukrainian soil.”
Ukrainian troops, meanwhile, have crossed the Oskil River in the Kharkiv region and have deployed artillery there, the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War said on Saturday. The river, which flows into Ukraine from Russia, has been a natural break in the newly formed front lines since Ukraine launched its counter-offensive about a week ago.
“Russian forces are probably too weak to prevent further Ukrainian advance along the entire Oskil River,” the institute said.
Videos circulating online showed that Ukrainian forces continued to retake land in the beleaguered eastern part of the country, though their truth could not be independently verified.
One showed a Ukrainian soldier walking past a damaged building and then pointing to a colleague who was hoisting the blue-and-yellow Ukrainian flag over a cell tower. The soldier identified the seized village as Dibrova, located just northeast of the city of Sloviansk in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
Another video showed two Ukrainian soldiers in what appeared to be a clock tower, one said they had recaptured the village of Shchurove, also northeast of Sloviansk.
The Ukrainian army and Russia did not comment on the two villages.
Elsewhere, Russian troops continued to storm towns and villages with rocket attacks and shelling.
A Russian rocket attack started a fire in the industrial area of Kharkov early Saturday, regional governor Oleh Syniehubov said. The fire brigade extinguished the fire.
Syniehubov said remains suggested that the Russians fired S-300 surface-to-air missiles at the city. The S-300 is designed for hitting missiles or aircraft in the air, not targets on the ground. Analysts say Russia’s use of the missiles indicates that precision munitions are running out.
An 11-year-old girl was killed in shelling in the nearby town of Chuhuiv later in the day, Syniehubov reported.
In the southern region of Zaporizhzhya, much of which is occupied by Russian troops, one person was injured in shelling on the city of Orikhiv, Ukraine’s governor of the region, Oleksandr Starukh, reported on Telegram. He said Russian forces also shelled two villages in the region and destroyed several civilian facilities.
Explosions have also been reported in Russian-occupied parts of Zaporizhzhya. Russian-installed official Vladimir Rogov said on Telegram that at least five blasts were heard in the city of Melitopol. The city’s Ukrainian mayor, Ivan Fedorov, said they were in a village south of the city where Russian forces had moved military equipment.
The central region of Dnipropetrovsk in Ukraine also came under Russian fire overnight, Governor Valentyn Reznichenko said. “The enemy attacked six times and launched more than 90 deadly projectiles at peaceful towns and villages,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s nuclear power operator, Energoatom, said a convoy of 25 trucks had brought diesel and other essential supplies to the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, which was shut down a week ago over fears that fighting could happen nearby. lead to a radiation disaster.
The trucks were allowed through Russian checkpoints Friday to deliver spare parts for repairs to damaged power lines, chemicals for plant operation and extra fuel for backup diesel generators, Energoatom said.
The six-reactor plant was captured by Russian forces in March but is operated by Ukrainian engineers. The last reactor was shut down on Sunday after repeated power cuts due to shelling jeopardized critical safety systems.
The International Atomic Energy Agency reported on Saturday that one of the nuclear plant’s four main external power lines had been repaired.
The Russian army accused Ukraine of renewed artillery shelling at the power plant. Ukrainian authorities did not immediately address the claim.
In Russia, one person was killed and two others injured by shelling on Saturday, said Vyacheslav Gladkov, governor of the Russian border region Belgorod. Gladkov blamed Ukraine. The claim could not be verified.
Karl Ritter in Kiev contributed to this report.
Follow AP war coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine