Ukrainian Official: Zelenskyy Meets High-Level US Delegation

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — U.S. Secretaries of State and Defense met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Sunday night in the highest-level visit to the country’s capital by a U.S. delegation since the beginning of the Russian invasion.

The meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, which was confirmed by a senior Ukrainian official, came as Ukraine pressed the West for more weapons. powerful against Russia’s campaign in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.where Moscow forces sought to dislodge the last Ukrainian troops from the battered port of Mariupol.

“Yes, they are going to meet with the president. Hopefully something will be decided on further aid,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych told Russian lawyer and activist Mark Feygin on his YouTube show “Feygin Live.” The United States has not yet commented.

Before the session with Blinken and Austin, Zelenskyy said he was looking for the Americans. to produce results, both in arms and in security guarantees.

“You can’t come to us empty-handed today, and we’re not just expecting gifts or some kind of cake, we’re expecting specific things and specific weapons,” he said.

Zelenskyy’s last face-to-face meeting with a top US official was on February 19 in Munich with Vice President Kamala Harris, five days before the Russian invasion. While the West has funneled military equipment to Ukraine, Zelenskyy has repeatedly emphasized that his country needs more heavy weapons, including long-range air defense systems and fighter jets.

In an apparent boost for Ukraine, polling agencies said French President Emmanuel Macron would win re-election over far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.. The result was hailed by France’s allies in the European Union as a reassuring sign of stability and continued support for Ukraine. France has played a leading role in international efforts to punish Russia with sanctions and is supplying weapons systems to Ukraine.

Zelenskyy’s meeting with US officials took place as Ukrainians and Russians observed Orthodox Easter.. Speaking from kyiv’s former Saint Sophia Cathedral, Zelenskyy, who is Jewish, stressed his importance to a nation devastated by nearly two months of war.

“Today’s big holiday gives us great hope and unshakeable faith that light will defeat darkness, good will defeat evil, life will defeat death, and therefore Ukraine will surely win!” he said.

Still, the war casts a shadow. about celebrations. In the northern town of Ivanivka, where Russian tanks still lined the roads, Olena Koptyl said “Easter holidays don’t bring any joy. I’m crying a lot. We cannot forget how we lived.”

The Russian military reported hitting 423 Ukrainian targets overnight, including fortified positions and troop concentrations, while its warplanes destroyed 26 Ukrainian military sites, including an explosives factory and several artillery depots.

Since failing to capture kyiv, the Russians have tried to gain full control over the industrial heartland of the east, where Moscow-backed separatists controlled some territory before the war.

Russian forces launched fresh airstrikes on a Mariupol steel plant, where some 1,000 civilians are sheltering along with some 2,000 Ukrainian fighters. The Azovstal steelworks, where the defenders are hiding, is the last corner of resistance in the city, which would otherwise be occupied by the Russians.

Zelenskyy said he emphasized the need to evacuate civilians from Mariupol, including from the steel plant, in a call Sunday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is scheduled to speak later with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Arestovych, Zelenskyy’s adviser, said Ukraine has proposed holding talks with Russia over the expanding steel plant. Arestovych said on the Telegram messaging app that Russia has not responded to the proposal that would include the establishment of humanitarian corridors and the exchange of Russian prisoners of war for fighters still at the plant.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres Guterres is scheduled to travel to Turkey on Monday and then to Moscow and kyiv. Zelenskyy said it was a mistake for Guterres to visit Russia before Ukraine.

“Why? To deliver signals from Russia? What should we look for?” Zelenskyy said on Saturday. “There are no corpses scattered on Kutuzovsky Prospect,” he said, referring to one of Moscow’s main avenues.

Mariupol has endured fierce fighting since the start of the war due to its location on the Sea of ​​Azov. Its capture would deprive Ukraine of a vital port, free up Russian troops to fight elsewhere and allow Moscow to establish a land corridor to the Crimean peninsula, which Ukraine seized in 2014.

More than 100,000 people, down from the pre-war population of around 430,000, are believed to remain in Mariupol with little food, water or heating. Ukrainian authorities estimate that more than 20,000 civilians have been killed. Recent satellite images showed what appeared to be mass graves to the west and east of Mariupol.

Children in an underground bunker were seen receiving Easter gifts in a video released Sunday by the far-right Azov Battalion, which is among Ukrainian forces at the steel plant in Mariupol. The deputy commander of the group, Sviatoslav Palamar, said that the video was shot at the plant.

A small child is seen wearing homemade diapers made from cellophane and people are seen hanging clothes on makeshift hangers.

“Please help us,” a woman in the video said through tears, appealing to world leaders. “We want to live in our city, in our country. We are tired of these constant bombing, air raids on our land. How much longer will this continue?”

Mykhailo Podolyak, another presidential adviser, tweeted that the Russian military was attacking the plant with heavy bombs and artillery while amassing forces and equipment for a direct attack.

Zelenskyy on Saturday accused the Russians of committing war crimes by killing civilians and setting up “filtration camps” near Mariupol for people trying to leave the city. He said Ukrainians, many of them children, are sent to Russian-occupied areas or to Russia itself, often as far as Siberia or the Far East.

The claims could not be independently verified. But they were echoed by Ukrainian lawmaker Yevheniya Kravchuk on ABC’s “This Week.”

“They have taken these people out of Mariupol, put them in filtration camps… it is something that cannot be happening in the 21st century,” Kravchuk said.

Zelenskyy also claimed that the intercepted communications recorded Russian troops discussing “how they hide the traces of their crimes” in Mariupol.

And he highlighted the death of a 3-month-old girl in a Russian missile attack on Saturday in the Black Sea port of Odessa. The baby was among eight people killed when Russia fired cruise missiles at Odessa, Ukrainian officials said.

The Ukrainian news agency UNIAN, citing social media, reported that the baby’s mother, Valeria Glodan, and grandmother were also killed when a missile hit a residential area. Zelenskyy promised to find and punish those responsible.

“The war started when this baby was 1 month old,” Zelenskyy said. “Can you imagine what is happening? They are filthy scum; there are no other words for that.”

For the Donbas offensive, Russia has reassembled troops that fought around kyiv and in northern Ukraine.. The British Ministry of Defense said Ukrainian forces had repelled numerous attacks in the past week and “inflicted a significant cost on Russian forces.”

The spiritual leaders of the Orthodox Christians of the world. and Roman Catholics called for relief for the suffering population of Ukraine.

From Istanbul, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I said a “human tragedy” was unfolding. Bartholomew, considered the first among his equal Eastern Orthodox patriarchs, cited in particular “the thousands of people surrounded in Mariupol, civilians, including the wounded, the elderly, women and many children.”

Pope Francis, speaking from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, renewed his call for an Easter truce, calling it “a minimal and tangible sign of a desire for peace.”

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Associated Press writers Yesica Fisch in Sloviansk, Ukraine, Mstyslav Chernov and Felipe Dana in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Cara Anna, Inna Varenytsia, and Oleksandr Stashevskyi in Kviv, and AP staff around the world contributed.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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