KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Talks to stop the fighting in Ukraine resumed Friday, as another attempt to rescue civilians from the besieged port city of Mariupol broke down and Russia accused the Ukrainians of launching a cross-border helicopter attack on an oil depot.
The governor of Russia’s Belgorod region said the alleged airstrike by a pair of helicopter gunships caused multiple fires and injured two people. A Kremlin spokesman said the incident on Russia’s territory could undermine the negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian representatives.
“Certainly, this is not something that can be perceived as creating comfortable conditions for the continuation of the talks,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov replied when asked if the strike could be viewed as an escalation of the war in Ukraine.
It was not immediately possible to verify the claim that Ukrainian helicopters targeted the oil depot or several nearby businesses in Belgorod also reported hit. Russia has reported shelling from Ukraine before, including an incident last week that killed a military chaplain, but not an incursion of its airspace.
Asked if Ukraine had fired on the depot, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in Warsaw that he could “neither confirm nor nor reject the claim that Ukraine was involved in this simply because I do not possess all the military information.”
The latest negotiations, taking place by video link, follow a meeting in Turkey on Tuesday where Ukraine reiterated its willingness to abandon a bid to join NATO and offered proposals to have its neutral military status guaranteed by a range of foreign countries.
The head of the Russian delegation, Vladimir Medinsky, wrote on social media that Moscow’s positions on retaining control of the Crimean Peninsula and expanding the territory in eastern Ukraine held by Russia-backed separatists “are unchanged.”