During the highest-level US visit to Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion two months ago, top American officials promised Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hundreds of millions of dollars in new aid, while Britain said Monday that Moscow has yet to make a significant breakthrough in its offensive in the country’s eastern industrial heartland.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told Zelenskyy in Kyiv that the US had approved a $165 million ammunition sale for Ukraine’s war effort, as well as more than $300 million in foreign military finance.
The commitments came on the 60th day after the invasion began, as Ukraine lobbied the West for more powerful weaponry to counter Russia’s campaign in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas area, where Moscow’s soldiers were attempting to oust the remaining Ukrainian troops in the damaged port of Mariupol.
Ukrainian troops holed up in a steel mill in the vital city are tying down Russian forces and preventing them from being deployed to the attack elsewhere in the Donbas, according to the British Ministry of Defense.
The ministry claimed in a statement on Twitter that “many Russian forces remain stuck in the city and cannot be redeployed.” “The defense of Mariupol by Ukraine has also depleted several Russian forces, reducing their combat effectiveness.”
Russia has only made “modest achievements in some places since changing its attention to totally occupying the Donbas,” according to the ministry.
“Russia has yet to accomplish a substantial breakthrough without appropriate logistical and combat support enablers in place,” the ministry added.
On the diplomatic front, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was set to visit Turkey on Monday, followed by Moscow and Kyiv. Guterres’ travel to Russia before Ukraine, according to Zelenskyy, was a mistake.
“Why? Russia’s signals to be handed over? “What should we be on the lookout for?” Saturday, Zelenskyy stated. “On the Kutuzovsky Prospect,” he remarked, referring to one of Moscow’s principal thoroughfares, “there are no bodies dispersed.”
French President Emmanuel Macron won re-election to a second term on Sunday, defeating far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who had promised to weaken France’s relations with the European Union and NATO. Le Pen had previously spoken out against EU restrictions on Russian energy, and her former friendship with the Kremlin had come under investigation throughout the campaign.
Macron’s win was welcomed as a comforting indication of stability and continuing support for Ukraine by France’s EU partners. France is selling military equipment to Ukraine and has played a prominent role in international attempts to impose sanctions on Russia.
“We have a lot to accomplish,” Macron said in his victory address, “and the situation in Ukraine reminds us that we are living in dreadful times where France must make its voice known.”
As Ukrainians and Russians celebrated Orthodox Easter, Zelenskyy met with US authorities for the first time since a Feb. 19 meeting in Munich with Vice President Kamala Harris. Zelenskyy, who is Jewish, spoke from Kyiv’s venerable St. Sophia Cathedral, emphasizing its relevance to a nation traumatized by nearly two months of conflict.
“Today’s wonderful celebration offers us enormous optimism and unshakeable trust that light will triumph over darkness, good will triumph over evil, life will triumph over death, and so Ukraine will undoubtedly triumph!” he declared.
A fire broke out early Monday at an oil depot to Ukraine’s north on the Russian side of the border, although there was no obvious reason for the burning in oil storage tanks.
Something was burning at locations that corresponded to a Rosneft plant about 110 kilometers (70 miles) north of the Ukrainian border, according to NASA satellites that track fires. Ukraine has already been blamed by Moscow for attacks on the Russian border town of Bryansk.
Since failing to take Kyiv, the Russians have been attempting to win complete control of the Donbas, Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland, where Moscow-backed rebels held some territory before to the war.
Russia has regrouped soldiers that fought around Kyiv and in northern Ukraine for the Donbas attack. In the last week, Ukrainian soldiers have withstood many attacks and “inflicted severe cost on Russian forces,” according to the British Ministry of Defense.
A tiny enclave of Ukrainian troops continues to hold out against Russian forces at the Azovstal steel complex, a large facility on the coastline, in the south of the Donbas, near the key port city of Mariupol.
Because of its location on the Sea of Azov, Mariupol has seen heavy warfare from the beginning of the war. Its annexation would deprive Ukraine of a key port, freeing Russian soldiers to fight elsewhere and allowing Moscow to construct a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014.
Russian military began more airstrikes on the steel complex over the weekend in an effort to evict the estimated 2,000 rebels inside. A total of 1,000 persons are said to be hiding in the structure.
Planet Labs PBC satellite photographs obtained on Sunday show wrecked structures across the steelworks and smoke billowing from one area. Roofs have huge holes, and incoming fire has cratered a soccer field.
More over 100,000 people are reported to survive in Mariupol, down from a prewar population of around 430,000, with no food, water, or heat. According to Ukrainian officials, around 20,000 people have been murdered. Recent satellite photographs from the west and east of Mariupol revealed what seemed to be mass graves.
In a video published Sunday by the far-right Azov Battalion, which is among the Ukrainian soldiers inside the steel factory in Mariupol, children in an underground bunker were shown getting Easter gifts. The film was recorded at the facility, according to Sviatoslav Palamar, the group’s deputy leader.
People are seen hanging clothes on improvised hangers and one kid is spotted wearing handmade diapers made of cellophane.
“Please assist us,” one lady in the video begged international leaders through tears. “We want to live in our city, in our nation,” said the group. We’ve had enough of these bombs and air strikes on our homeland. “How much longer is this going to go on?”