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Zelensky visits frontline troops near Bakhmut in east Ukraine

President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the war-battered town of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine and spoke to troops leading a counteroffensive against Russia, Ukraine said Tuesday. Earlier on Tuesday, the Kremlin declined to confirm a potential upcoming summit, which US officials expect to take place, between President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Russia. Follow our live blog for the latest updates on the war in Ukraine. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).

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Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said Tuesday that new attacks in neighbouring Ukraine happened "very, very close" to its border, with Russia repeatedly launching drone strikes on Danube infrastructure in southern Ukraine.

"We had attacks just today, the minister of defence told me, which were verified at 800 metres (2,600 feet) from our border. So very, very close," Iohannis told a joint press conference with Luxembourg's Prime Minister Xavier Bettel.

Kyiv's Saint Sophia Cathedral and the historical centre of western Ukrainian city Lviv should join UNESCO's list of World Heritage sites in danger due to the Russian invasion, a senior official at the UN body said Tuesday.

"These sites are threatened with destruction. There have been attacks on the buffer zones around these sites and we don't know what will happen in the future," the head of the World Heritage programme Lazare Eloundou told AFP in Paris.

The World Heritage Committee, set to meet from September 10-25 in Riyadh, will "likely" make the decision "based on experts' opinion" that the sites are "demonstrably in danger", Eloundou added.

The centre of Ukrainian port city Odesa is already on the list of endangered World Heritage sites, and several of its buildings were destroyed in late July in what UNESCO described at the time as a "brazen" attack.

UNESCO has tallied damage to 270 Ukrainian cultural sites since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

4:51pm: Putin accuses the West of installing an ethnic Jew as Ukraine's leader to 'cover glorification of Nazism'

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a television interview on Tuesday, without citing evidence, that Western powers had installed Volodymyr Zelensky, who is of Jewish heritage, as president of Ukraine to cover up the glorification of Nazism.

In justifying its invasion of Ukraine, which it calls a "special military operation", Russia accuses Kyiv's leaders of being neo-Nazis pursuing a "genocide" of Russian-speakers - an assertion that Kyiv and Western countries dismiss as a baseless pretext for Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

Zelensky, who has said that some of his grandfather's brothers were killed in the Holocaust, has repeatedly dismissed Russian accusations that he supports neo-Nazis as false.

On his visit to the front near the eastern Ukrainian town of Bakhmut on Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky discussed "the problems and needs" of army units with commanders on the ground, according to the presidential office.

Reporting from Kyiv, FRANCE 24's Gulliver Cragg explains that Ukrainian forces are fighting on the outskirts of Bakhmut, in the Donetsk region, but still have not managed to reclaim the industrial town from Russian control.

"The real prize, the real strategic part of this counteroffensive is the south," says Cragg, referring to the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the southern Zaporizhzhia region.

The Washington DC-based think tank, the Institute for the Study of War, on Monday said geolocated footage indicates that Ukrainian forces have breached Russia's formidable "dragon's teeth" defences in western Zaporizhzhia.

"It's not yet clear whether the Ukrainians have been able to establish firm positions beyond those Russian defence positions or it's just a probing attack," says Cragg. "But there's certainly hope here in Kyiv that once the Ukrainian forces pass that very strong first line of defence, the subsequent lines won't be as strong and won't be as well-manned, and they might be able to advance quicker."

A senior Ukrainian official on Tuesday rebuffed a suggestion by Turkey that Kyiv should soften its stance to revive the Black Sea grain deal, saying Ukraine would not support sanctions relief for Moscow or a policy of "appeasement".

"Let's be realistic after all and stop discussing non-existent options, much less encouraging Russia to commit further crimes," presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told Reuters.

One person was killed and one wounded due to shelling by Ukrainian forces on Tuesday in Russia's Belgorod region which borders Ukraine, local governor Vyacheslav Gladkov wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

Belgorod has come under frequent cross-border fire in the course of the 18-month war. Ukraine typically does not comment on attacks inside Russia.

The number of people killed or wounded by cluster munitions increased eightfold last year to more than 1,000, mostly due to their use in the Ukraine war, particularly by Russia, a campaign group said on Tuesday.

Cluster munitions, fired from the ground or by aircraft, explode mid-air, spraying smaller 'bomblets' over a wide area.

Neither Russia nor Ukraine is a party to a 2008 ban on the weapons joined by more than 100 countries. Nor is the United States, which began supplying cluster munitions to Ukraine this year.

Of the 1,172 victims last year, 353 died including more than 300 in Ukraine, the report by the Cluster Munitions Coalition campaign group showed. The report said that nearly all the victims were civilians and three-quarters were children who are often drawn to play with unexploded bomblets which sometimes resemble shiny balls or batteries.

In Ukraine, the report said Russia had used cluster munitions "repeatedly", while Ukraine had also used them, but to "a lesser extent". It did not provide a breakdown.

There was no immediate response from Kyiv or Moscow to the report.

Ukrainian parliament approved the dismissal of defence minister Oleksii Reznikov on Tuesday, a lawmaker said.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday he was dismissing Reznikov, and the minister resigned on Monday. Zelensky has proposed Rustem Umerov, a Crimean Tatar and ex-lawmaker who runs the State Property Fund, as the next defence minister.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke to his troops leading a counteroffensive towards the eastern war-battered town of Bakhmut, Kyiv said Tuesday.

"As part of a working trip to Donetsk region, the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky visited combat brigades conducting offensive operations in the Bakhmut region," the presidency said, adding that Zelensky had "listened to reports on the operational situation" on the eastern front.

The Kremlin on Tuesday declined to confirm a potential upcoming summit between President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which US officials have said they expected.

"No, we cannot (confirm this)," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, when he was asked if Kim would meet Putin soon. "We have nothing to say on this."

10:31am: Ukraine expects no change in grain export situation after Putin-Erdogan talks, government source says

Ukraine does not expect its grain export situation to change following talks on Monday between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, a senior Ukrainian government source said on Tuesday.

Erdogan said Ukraine's grain export corridor had been the most important issue in his talks with Putin, and that he believed a solution could be found soon to reviving the UN-brokered Black Sea grain export deal.

Ukraine saw more than 900 cluster munition casualties in 2022, amid broad Russian use of the widely-banned weapons, driving global casualty figures to a record high, a monitoring group said Tuesday.

Since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February last year, it has "extensively" used stocks of old cluster munitions and newly developed ones, and Ukrainian forces also used such weapons "to a lesser extent", the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) said in an annual report.

In all, the country, which had registered no cluster munition casualties for several years, recorded 916 deaths and injuries from the weapons last year, impacting essentially civilians, the report showed.

Those casualties accounted for the vast majority of the global figure, which rose to 1,172 in 2022 -- the highest annual number since CMC began reporting in 2010.

Russian air defences destroyed a Ukrainian aeroplane-style drone over Crimea on Tuesday morning, the Russian defence ministry said in a statement.

Cuba has identified an alleged human trafficking ring aimed at recruiting its citizens to fight in Russia's war in Ukraine, the foreign ministry said Monday.

The government was working to dismantle a "trafficking network that operates from Russia to incorporate Cuban citizens living there, and even some from Cuba, into the military forces involved in military operations in Ukraine", the ministry said in a statement.

The Cuban government had initiated criminal proceedings against those carrying out the trafficking, it added.

Cuban foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez said in a post on X, formerly Twitter, that the government was "acting with the full force of the law" against trafficking operations.

"Cuba is not part of the war in Ukraine," the ministry said, adding it would take action against anyone "who participates in any form of human trafficking for the purpose of recruitment or mercenarism for Cuban citizens to use arms against any country".

There was no immediate reaction from Moscow.

Russia's air defence systems destroyed three drones early Tuesday which were trying to reach Moscow, the Russian capital's mayor said.

Sergei Sobyanin said there had been "no casualties", according to initial information.

Air defence forces "destroyed drones which were trying to carry out an attack on Moscow", he said on Telegram.

Russia's defence ministry said one was flying over the Kaluga region, southwest of Moscow, while a second was destroyed northwest of the capital above the Moscow region's Istrinsky district.

A third was also destroyed in the Tver region, northwest of Moscow.

"Air defence systems on duty destroyed an unmanned aerial vehicle over the territory of Kaluga region," the ministry said on Telegram.

Russia shot down Ukraine-launched drones targeting Moscow in Istra district of the capital region and the Kaluga region early on Tuesday, the defence ministry and Moscow's mayor said.

The Russian defence ministry said that its air defence systems destroyed a Ukraine-launched drone around 3am (0000GMT) over the Kaluga region which borders with the Moscow region to its southwest.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said on the Telegram messaging app that drones were downed over Kaluga region and closer to Moscow over the Istra district, and that they "were trying to carry out an attack on Moscow".

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un expects to make a rare trip abroad to meet with President Vladimir Putin in Russia to discuss providing arms to Moscow for its war in Ukraine, the United States said Monday.

The White House's National Security Council (NSC) spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said that "arms negotiations between Russia and the DPRK are actively advancing", using an acronym for North Korea.

"We have information that Kim Jong Un expects these discussions to continue, to include leader-level diplomatic engagement in Russia," she added.

The United States last week warned that Russia was already in secret talks with the North to acquire a range of munitions and supplies for Moscow's war effort.

Kim is likely to head by armored train later this month to Vladivostok, on Russia's Pacific coast not far from North Korea, to meet with Putin, according to The New York Times.

Key developments from Monday, September 4:

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that the deal that allowed Ukraine to export grain safely through the Black Sea won't be restored until the West meets Moscow's demands to facilitate Russian agricultural exports. Putin made the statement after talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Russian port city of Sochi.

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

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)