Kyiv, Ukraine – US and US secretaries of state met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the evening during a visit by a US high-level delegation to the country’s capital since the Russian invasion.
A meeting with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, confirmed by a senior Ukrainian official, came at a time when Ukraine was pushing the West to gain more powerful weapons against Russia’s campaign. Donbass region in eastern Ukrainewhere Moscow forces sought to drive out the last Ukrainian troops in the ruined port of Mariupol.
“Yes, they are meeting with the president. We will hope that something will be decided on further assistance, ”Alexei Arestovich, an adviser to the President of Ukraine, told Russian lawyer and activist Mark Feigin on his show Feygin Live. The United States has not yet commented.
Before the session with Blinken and Austin Zelensky said he was looking Americans to achieve results in both arms and security guarantees.
“You will not come to us empty-handed today, and we are not just waiting for gifts or cakes, we are waiting for concrete things and concrete weapons,” he said.
Zelensky’s last personal meeting with a senior US official took place on February 19 in Munich with Vice President Kamala Harris, five days before Russia’s invasion.
While the West is sending military equipment to Ukraine, Zelensky has repeatedly stressed that his country needs heavier weapons, including long-range air defense systems and combat aircraft.
The result was assessed by France’s allies in the European Union as an encouraging sign of stability and continued support for Ukraine. France plays a leading role in international efforts to punish Russia with sanctions and supplies weapons systems to Ukraine.
Zelensky’s meeting with US officials was held by both Ukrainians and Russians celebrated Orthodox Easter. Speaking from the ancient St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev, Zelensky, who is Jewish, stressed its importance to a nation destroyed by a nearly two-month war.
“The great holiday gives us great hope and unshakable faith that light will overcome darkness, good will defeat evil, life will defeat death, and therefore Ukraine will surely win!” he said.
However, the war cast a shadow over the festivities. In the northern village of Ivanauka, where Russian tanks have been blocking roads, Alena Koptyl said: “Easter is not a joy. I’m crying a lot. We can’t forget how we lived. “
The Russian military said it had struck 423 Ukrainian targets during the night, including fortified positions and troop concentrations, while their warplanes destroyed 26 Ukrainian military targets, including an explosives plant and several artillery depots.
After the Russians failed to capture Kyiv, the Russians sought full control eastern industrial center, where separatists, backed by Moscow, controlled certain territory before the war.
Russian troops have carried out new air strikes on the Mariupol steel plant, which is estimated to be home to about 1,000 civilians along with about 2,000 Ukrainian fighters. The Azovstal metallurgical plant, where the defenders are hiding, is the last corner of the resistance in the Russian-occupied city.
Zelensky said he stressed the need to evacuate civilians from Mariupol, including from a metallurgical plant, in a Sunday conversation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is due to hold talks with Russian leader Vladimir Putin later.
Orastovich, Zelensky’s adviser, said that Ukraine had offered to hold talks with Russia near a large steel plant. Arastovich told Telegram that Russia had not responded to a proposal to create humanitarian corridors and exchange Russian prisoners of war for fighters still at the plant.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres Guterres is scheduled to travel to Turkey on Monday, followed by Moscow and Kyiv.
Zelensky said Guterres was a mistake to visit Russia before Ukraine.
“Why? Transmit signals from Russia? What should we look for? ” Zelensky said on Saturday. “There are no corpses on Kutuzov Avenue,” he said, referring to one of Moscow’s main avenues.
Mariupol has been experiencing fierce fighting since the beginning of the war due to its location on the Sea of Azov. Its capture would deprive Ukraine of an important port, free Russian troops to fight elsewhere, and allow Moscow to create a land corridor to the Crimean peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014.
It is estimated that more than 100,000 people – compared to a pre-war population of about 430,000 – remain in Mariupol without food, water or heat. According to Ukrainian authorities, more than 20,000 civilians were killed.
Recent satellite images have shown what appeared to be mass graves west and east of Mariupol.
A video released on Sunday by the far-right Azov Battalion, which is part of the Ukrainian forces at the Mariupol Metallurgical Plant, shows children in an underground bunker receiving Easter presents.
Svyatoslav Palamar, the group’s deputy commander, said that the video was shot at the plant.
One child was seen making homemade cellophane diapers, and people were seen hanging clothes on homemade hangers.
“Please help us,” one woman said in tears in a video addressing world leaders. “We want to live in our city, in our country. We are tired of these bombings, the constant air strikes on our land. How long will it last? ”
Another adviser to the president, Mikhail Podalak, wrote on Twitter that the Russian military was attacking the plant with heavy bombs and artillery, accumulating forces and equipment for direct assault.
On Saturday, Zelensky accused Russians of committing war crimes, killing civilians, and setting up “filtration camps” near Mariupol for people trying to leave the city.
He said Ukrainians – many of them children – were then sent to Russian-occupied areas, or to Russia itself, often as far as Siberia or the Far East.
An independent verification of the claims failed. But they were repeated by Ukrainian MP Eugene Kravchuk on ABC “This Week”.
“They pulled these people out of Mariupol – they are put in filtration camps … this is something that can not be in the XXI century,” – said Kravchuk.
Zelensky also claimed that in intercepted conversations, the Russian military was discussing “how they are hiding traces of their crimes” in Mariupol.
And he stressed the death of a 3-month-old girl in a Russian missile strike on Saturday on the Black Sea port of Odessa.
Ukrainian officials said the child was among eight people killed when Russia fired cruise missiles at Odessa.
Ukrainian news agency UNIAN with reference to social networks reports that the baby’s mother Valeria Glodan and grandmother also died as a result of a rocket strike in a residential area. Zelensky promised to find and punish the perpetrators.
“The war started when this child was 1 month old,” Zelensky said. “Can you imagine what’s going on? They are dirty scum; there are no other words for it. “
The British Ministry of Defense said that over the past week, Ukrainian troops repulsed numerous attacks and “inflicted significant costs on Russian troops.”
From Istanbul, World Patriarch Bartholomew I said there was a “human tragedy”. Bartholomew, who is considered the first of his Eastern Orthodox patriarchs, called, in particular, “thousands of people surrounded in Mariupol, civilians, including the wounded, the elderly, women and many children.”
Speaking from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis renewed his call for an Easter truce, calling it “a minimal and tangible sign of the desire for peace.”
Associated Press journalists Esica Fish in Sloviansk (Ukraine), Mstislav Chernov and Felipe Dana in Kharkiv (Ukraine), Yuras Karmanov in Lviv, Kara Anna, Inna Varenitsa and Alexander Stashevsky in Kveve and AP staff around the world.
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