Rescue workers inspect the site of a destroyed hostel following a missile strike in Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv on Wednesday night. (photo by AFP)

KYIV, UKRAINE: Russian strikes hit the northeastern region of Ukraine Kharkov Thursday, killing at least five people, hours before the first face-to-face since the start of the war between the Turkish and Ukrainian leaders.
Meanwhile, Moscow has denied deploying heavy weapons at Russia’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, where a recent escalation in fighting has heightened fears of a nuclear catastrophe.
Kharkiv region chief Oleg Synegubov said Moscow forces launched eight missiles from Russian territory around 4:30 a.m. local time (0130 GMT) hitting the city.
“Three people died, including a child. Eight people, including two children, were rescued,” the emergency services said.
Synegubov posted footage from the scene of a strike showing the smoldering remains of several burnt-out buildings and twisted wreckage of destroyed vehicles nearby.
In separate strikes on the city of Krasnograd southwest of Kharkiv, shelling that damaged residential buildings left two dead and two injured, he said.
“Kharkiv. 175 days of horror. Daily terror, missile strikes on residential areas and civilians,” senior presidential adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak wrote on social media.
The strikes in the war-scarred east of the country come a day after shelling killed at least seven people in the city and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and UN chief Antonio Guterres met in the western city of Lviv.
The two were lead brokers in a deal last month with Moscow and Kyiv allowing for the resumption of grain exports from Ukraine after The invasion of Russia blocked essential global supplies.
A spokesman for Guterres said UN chief Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Erdogan will discuss the grain deal, as well as “the need for a political solution to this conflict”.
He added that he had “no doubt that the issue of the nuclear plant” would be raised.
In his usual Wednesday night address, Zelenskyy said he and Guterres would “work to get the results needed for Ukraine.”
The UN chief is due to travel to Odessa on Friday, one of the three ports involved in the grain export agreement concluded in July under the aegis of the UN with the mediation of Ankara.
He will then travel to Turkey to visit the Joint Coordination Centre, the body responsible for overseeing the agreement.
According to the UN, the first half of August saw 21 cargo ships cleared under the deal carrying more than 563,000 tons of agricultural produce, including more than 451,000 tons of maize.
The first wartime UN food aid shipment for Africa reached the Bosphorus Strait on Wednesday, carrying 23,000 tons of wheat.
Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Thursday that its forces had not deployed heavy weapons on the Zaporizhzhia plantaccusing Kyiv of preparing a “provocation” at the station.
“Russian troops have no heavy weapons either on the territory of the station or in the areas surrounding it. There are only guard units,” the ministry said in a statement.
Zelenskyy referred to the Zaporizhzhia plant in his speech on Wednesday, saying Ukrainian diplomats and scientists were in “constant contact” with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with the aim of sending a mission from guard dog in the occupied nuclear facility.
“The Russian army must withdraw from the territory of the nuclear power plant and all neighboring areas, and remove its military equipment from the plant,” he added. “It must be done without any conditions and as soon as possible.”
Earlier Wednesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Russia’s seizure of the plant “poses a serious threat to the safety and security of this facility (and) increases the risk of accidents or nuclear incident”.
Also calling for a Russian withdrawal and IAEA inspections, Stoltenberg accused Moscow of using “the ground around the nuclear plant as a staging area, as a platform, to launch artillery attacks against forces Ukrainians, and that is reckless”.
Russian forces took over the factory in Zaporizhzhia, located in southern Ukraine, in March shortly after the invasion.
It’s the largest in Europe, and the uncertainty surrounding it has fueled fears of a nuclear accident to rival Chernobyl in 1986.
Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of bombing the Zaporizhzhia facility.

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