Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he does not reject the idea of peace talks on Ukraine.

Speaking after meeting African leaders in St Petersburg, he said African and Chinese initiatives could serve as a basis for finding peace.

President Putin also said it was hard to implement a ceasefire when the Ukrainian army was on the offensive.

Ukraine and Russia have previously said they will not come to the negotiating table without certain preconditions.

Kyiv says it will not concede any territory but Moscow says Kyiv must accept its country’s “new territorial reality”. Russia invaded its neighbour last year and is occupying territory in the country’s south and east.

Mr Putin told the late-night press conference on Saturday that there were no plans to intensify action on the Ukrainian front for now.

He also defended the arrest of critical voices, claiming some people were harming Russia from inside.

Criticism of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine is outlawed and most prominent opposition members are behind bars or in exile.

In the wide-ranging briefing, the Russian president also told reporters that Moscow carried out some “preventive strikes” after an explosion on a Crimean bridge earlier this month.

Following the bridge incident – which left two people dead – Mr Putin vowed to respond to what he claimed was a “terrorist” act by Ukraine. Kyiv did not officially say it was responsible for the blast on the bridge, which links the occupied peninsula to Russia.

The Russia-Africa summit comes after an African contingent including leaders and representatives from seven countries met Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky and Mr Putin last month.

In the north-eastern Ukrainian city of Sumy, one person was killed and five others injured after a rocket attack, the country’s interior ministry said.

The ministry said on Telegram that a Russian missile hit an educational institution on Saturday evening. The BBC has not verified this information.

Elsewhere, two people were killed and another was injured after a missile hit “an open area” in the southern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia on Saturday, an official said.

Anatoliy Kurtiev, secretary of the city council, said the blast wave caused by the “enemy missile” blew out apartment windows and damaged an educational institution and supermarket.

Russia said two office blocks were damaged in a drone attack on Moscow in the early hours of Sunday.

The city’s mayor Sergei Sobyanin said no one was injured in the attack, which he blamed on Ukraine.

The airspace over Moscow was temporarily closed but Vnukovo Airport has since reopened.

President Zelensky has been visiting Ukrainian special forces near Bakhmut, the city where some of the fiercest fighting of the war has been taking place.

Ukrainian authorities have said Kyiv’s troops are gradually moving forward near the eastern city, which Russian forces seized in May.

BBC/Simeon Ugbodovon

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