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Russia: French military instructors in Ukraine are 'legitimate targets'

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FILE - This photo taken from video provided by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Feb. 19, 2022, shows a Russian Iskander-K missile launched during a military exercise at a training ground in Russia.
FILE - This photo taken from video provided by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Feb. 19, 2022, shows a Russian Iskander-K missile launched during a military exercise at a training ground in Russia.

Russia's foreign minister said Tuesday that any French military instructors in Ukraine training Ukraine soldiers would be a "legitimate target" for Russian strikes.

"Regardless of their status, military officials or mercenaries represent a legitimate target for our armed forces," Sergey Lavrov said Tuesday. He said he thought French instructors were "already on the Ukrainian territory."

Ukraine's top military commander said last week that Ukraine was preparing for the trainers' imminent arrival.

However, French President Emmanuel Macron would not confirm that or comment on what he called "rumors or decision that could be made."

Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesperson, said Tuesday that "instructors who train the Kyiv regime's troops don't have any sort of immunity, and it doesn't matter whether they are French or not."

On an African diplomatic tour, Lavrov made his remarks at a news conference in the Republic of Congo.

Russia has launched most of its battles and its heaviest attacks in Ukraine's Donetsk region, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his daily address Tuesday.

The president said Ukraine is doing whatever is necessary to make Russia understand that Ukraine has "the means to respond to any attempt to expand the war and increase pressure on Ukraine."

Zelenskyy also said drones are of the utmost importance in its fight to beat back Russia. "In this war, it has been proven, and especially by our warriors, that drones can give the advantage and help regain the initiative," he said.

Falling debris damages buildings

In Ukraine on Tuesday, officials said a Russian missile attack hit the central city of Dnipro, injuring at least seven people.

Ukraine's air force said it shot down two Iskander-K cruise missiles in the area.

Serhiy Lysak, the regional governor, said on Telegram that falling debris from the downed missiles damaged residential buildings and a hospital.

The Ukrainian military also reported destroying two drones over the Chernihiv region. There were no reports of injuries or damage there.

Russia's defense ministry said Tuesday it destroyed a Ukrainian drone over the Belgorod region.

Vyacheslav Gladkov, the regional governor of Belgorod, said in Telegram that Ukraine used a kamikaze drone in an attack that hit a car in the village of Yasnye Zori, but caused no injuries.

US to attend peace summit

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and national security adviser Jake Sullivan will attend a Ukraine peace conference in Switzerland on June 15, the White House said Monday in a statement.

Harris will travel to Switzerland to underscore the U.S. commitment to supporting Ukraine's effort to secure a just and lasting peace, based on Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and the principles of the United Nations charter, said the vice president's communications director, Kirsten Allen.

Harris will reaffirm U.S. support for the people of Ukraine as they defend themselves against ongoing Russian aggression, the statement said.

The Kremlin has repeatedly said any talks around securing peace in Ukraine should involve Russia, which has not been invited to the summit.

Some material in this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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