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Live: Zelensky visits Ukrainian special forces near Bakhmut

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Saturday he was visiting "advanced positions" of Ukraine's special forces near Bakhmut, the eastern city that Russian forces seized in May. The toll from a Russian missile strike on Friday in the city of Dnipro rose to nine people injured, including two children, Ukraine's State Emergency Service said. Read our liveblog for the latest developments. All times are Paris time (GMT + 2).

Saudi Arabia is set to host talks on Ukraine among Western countries, Ukraine and key developing countries, including India and Brazil, early next month, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday.

The meeting would bring senior officials from up to 30 countries to Jeddah on August 5 and 6, the report said, citing diplomats involved in the discussion.

Seventeen members of Ukraine's special operations forces have been awarded the title of Hero of Ukraine since Rusisia's 2022 invasion, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Saturday - 13 of them posthumously.

The Ukrainian president said he was not at liberty to disclose details of the special forces' current operations, but that its members recently helped recapture the village of Staromaiorske from Russian forces on the southern front.

"The guys inflict especially tangible blows on Russian terrorists," he added.

A group of a hundred soldiers from the Russian Wagner Group have moved closer to the Belarusian city of Grodno near the Polish border, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Saturday.

Earlier this month, Poland began moving more than 1,000 troops to the east of the country amid rising concerns that the presence of Wagner fighters in Belarus could lead to increased tension on its border.

"The situation is getting increasingly dangerous ... Most likely they (the Wagner personnel) will be disguised as the Belarusian border guard and help illegal migrants get to the Polish territory (and) destabilise Poland," Morawiecki said at a press conference in Gliwice, western Poland.

"They will most likely try to enter Poland pretending to be illegal migrants and this poses additional threats," Morawiecki said.

He did not give the source of his information on the Wagner movements. Anton Motolko, founder of the Belarusian opposition Hajun project, which monitors military activity in the country, told Reuters his group had not seen any evidence of the Wagner Group moving closer to Grodno.

Russia said Saturday its forces struck a command post in Ukraine's Dnipro the previous day after Kyiv said a missile hit an apartment block there, wounding nine people.

"On the evening of July 28, the Russian armed forces attacked a command post of the Ukrainian armed forces in the city of Dnepropetrovsk with high-precision weapons," the Russian defence ministry said, referring to Dnipro by its earlier name. "The designated target has been hit."

Russia has received around 30 peace initiatives on Ukraine through official and unofficial channels, the TASS news agency reported on Saturday, citing Russia's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Saturday he was visiting "advanced positions" of Ukraine's special forces near the eastern city of Bakhmut as Kyiv ramps up its counteroffensive.

"The Bakhmut direction, advanced positions of the Special Operations Forces," Zelensky said on messaging app Telegram, adding he arrived to congratulate Ukraine's "warriors on their professional day, to honour their strength".

Zelensky said he was not at liberty to disclose details of the special forces' current operations.

He said he heard a commander's report and spoke with the troops, praising their "truly heroic" performance.

Photos published by Zelensky on Twitter showed him meeting troops and looking at maps in a dimly lit, windowless concrete-walled room.

Ukrainian authorities have said Kyiv's troops are gradually moving forward near Bakhmut, which Russian forces seized in May.

Four African heads of state will attend Russia's annual Navy Day Parade in St. Petersburg on Sunday, the Kremlin said on Saturday, with five more African countries also sending other representation.

African leaders pressed Putin on Friday to move ahead with their plan to end the Ukraine conflict and to renew a deal crucial to Africa on the safe export of Ukrainian grain, which Moscow tore up last week.

7:48am: Blinken says Russian defence minister's visit to Pyongyang aimed at securing weapons for Ukraine war

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday said that the United States believes Russia's Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu is in North Korea to secure supplies of weapons for Moscow's war in Ukraine.

Following Shoigu's arrival on a rare trip to Pyongyang, Blinken said that Russia is scrambling to buy arms from allies across the world.

"I strongly doubt he's there on holiday," Blinken told reporters in Australia.

"We're seeing Russia desperately looking for support, for weapons, wherever it can find them to continue to prosecute its aggression against Ukraine," he said. "We see that in North Korea, we see that as well with Iran, which has provided many drones to Russia that it's using to destroy civilian infrastructure and killed civilians in Ukraine."

While in North Korea, Shoigu met the country's leader Kim Jong Un, in what Pyongyang's state media described as "a friendly talk".

Kim met Shoigu and a high-ranking Chinese delegation in Pyongyang on Wednesday ahead of Korean War anniversary celebrations.

Ukrainian soldiers were observed using North Korean rockets that they said were seized by a "friendly" country before being delivered to Ukraine, the Financial Times reported on Saturday.

Ukraine's defence ministry suggested the arms were captured from the Russians, the newspaper said.

The United States has accused North Korea of providing arms to Russia, including alleged shipments by sea, but has not offered proof and North Korean weapons have not been widely observed on the battlefields in Ukraine.

North Korea and Russia deny conducting arms transactions.

The North Korean weapons were shown by Ukrainian troops operating Soviet-era Grad multiple-launch rocket systems near the destroyed eastern city of Bakhmut, a site of lengthy brutal fighting, the report said.

A Russian missile struck an apartment block in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro on Friday, Kyiv officials said, injuring at least nine people including two children.

"Dnipro. Another terrorist attack," said Sergiy Kruk, head of the Ukrainian State Emergency Service, on Telegram.

"Currently, we know of nine injured, including two children. Work continues."

Internal Affairs Minister Igor Klymenko earlier reported "a Russian strike on a multi-storey building in Dnipro", saying five people had been injured.

Key developments from Friday, July 28:

A Russian missile strike hit a multi-storey residential building and a government building in the city of Dnipro on Friday, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky said. "Dnipro. Friday evening. A high-rise building and the Security Service of Ukraine's building were hit," Zelensky said. No one was killed in the strike. The initial injury toll stood at three.

At least 15 people were injured in an explosion near a cafe in the southwestern Russian city of Taganrog near the border with Ukraine, the regional governor said Friday. "Rescuers are at the scene. There are no dead. There are several injured to whom ambulances have been dispatched," Rostov Governor Vasily Golubev said on Telegram, later adding that 15 people suffered "light injuries".

Read yesterday's liveblog to see how the day's events unfolded.

Read more analysis on the war in Ukraine

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)