Blinken and Austin stealthily visit Kyiv as Ukraine war enters the third month


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Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made a stealth visit to Kyiv on Sunday night, meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as Russia’s messy invasion rumbled into its third month, ignoring calls for a ceasefire in observance of Orthodox Easter.

Mr. Blinken, Mr. Austin arrived in Kiev on the most high-ranking U.S. delegation since the Russian invasion. The Biden administration has refused to comment due to tight security. However, an adviser to Mr. Zelenskyy said that the meeting was in progress in Kyiv on Sunday night.

This visit was made at the conclusion of a weekend during which Mr. Zelenskyy, along with other Ukrainian officials, had accused Russian forces for continuing to target civilians. Moscow however claimed that the Russian military had conducted successful strikes Sunday against a Ukrainian explosives plant, several artillery depots, and hundreds more targets.

While Ukraine’s military successfully staved off a Russian assault on Kyiv weeks ago, Mr. Zelenskyy said over the weekend he intended to press Mr. Blinken and Mr. Austin for more powerful weapons than Washington and NATO have so far provided — even after President Biden’s announcement last week of a fresh $800 million worth of aid in the form of U.S. military equipment.

“You can’t come to us empty-handed today, and we are expecting not just presents or some kind of cakes, we are expecting specific things and specific weapons,” Mr. Zelenskyy said in reference to Kyiv’s repeated requests since the invasion began for such heavy weapons as long-range air defense systems and warplanes.

Ukrainians observed Orthodox Easter solemnly on Sunday. Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov of Russia’s Defense Ministry stated that Russian forces used precision-guided rockets to demolish a factory producing powder and explosives in central Ukraine. This was in response to the holiday’s overnight strikes.

SEE ALSO : Russian forces try to forcibly expel civilians from Mariupol into Russia, a Ukrainian lawmaker states

He also claimed that Russian forces had attacked numerous depots with artillery and rockets in Barvinkove in the Kharkiv region, Nova Dmytrivka. Ivanivka. Husarivka.

The biggest strategic developments Sunday came in Ukraine’s east, where Russian forces were reported to have launched fresh airstrikes on a steel plant in the besieged port city of Mariupol, where an estimated 1,000 civilians are holed up alongside some 2,000 Ukrainian fighters.

The claim that some 120,000 more civilians were trapped in Mariupol by Mr. Zelenskyy was the news of the week made headlines.

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