President Volodymyr Zilenskyy announced that U.S. Secretary Antony Blinken would be visiting the country, along with U.S. Defense secretary Lloyd Austin. This was during a long Saturday night news conference in a Kyiv subway stop. The White House has not yet commented.
Zelenskyy stated that he was seeking the Americans results in terms of both arms and security. He stated that he could not accept gifts or cakes today and that he was expecting specific items and weapons.
This would be the first visit by high ranking U.S. officials since Russia invaded Ukraine 60-days ago. In March, Blinken visited Ukraine to meet with its foreign minister. Zelenskyy met with the Vice President Kamala Harir in Munich on February 19.
While Western supporters of Ukraine have sent military equipment to Ukraine in the past, Zelenskyy repeatedly stressed that Ukraine needs more heavy weapons. This includes long-range air defense systems and warplanes to fight off Russia.
He met with Austin and Blinken as Ukrainians and Russians celebrated Orthodox Easter when the faithful celebrate Jesus' resurrection. Zelenskyy, a Jewish man, spoke from Kyiv’s St. Sophia Cathedral. He highlighted the allegorical importance of the occasion for a nation that was devastated by almost two months of war.
He stated, "The great holiday today gives me great hope and unwavering belief that light will conquer darkness, good over evil, life will triumph over death, and therefore Ukraine is certain to win!"
The war cast a shadow on celebrations. Rural villages that were ravaged by war approached the occasion with cautious defiance.
"How do I feel? Very nervous. Everybody is nervous," Olena Koptyl stated as she made her Easter bread in Ivanivka's northern village. There, Russian tanks still litter the roads. "The Easter holiday is not a time of joy. I am crying a lot. "We cannot forget what we have done."
According to the Russian military, it had hit 423 targets in Ukraine overnight. These included fortified positions and troops concentrations. Meanwhile, Russian warplanes destroyed 26 sites of military importance, including an explosives plant and several artillery bases.
Sunday's fighting was centered on the eastern Donbas, the area where Ukrainian forces were concentrated and where Moscow-backed separatists had previously controlled some territory. The Russians have been determined to regain control of Ukraine's eastern industrial center, after failing to capture Kyiv.
Russian forces launched new airstrikes against a Mariupol Steel Plant where about 1,000 civilians and 2,000 Ukrainian fighters are sheltering. The Azovstal steel plant where the defenders are hiding is the last area of resistance in the city that the Russians had previously occupied.
Zelenskyy stated that he stressed the need for evacuation of civilians from Mariupol (including from the steel plant) in a Sunday call to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdan, who is due to talk later with Vladimir Putin.
Antonio Guterres Guterres, U.N. Secretary General, is due to travel to Turkey Monday before continuing on to Moscow and Kyiv. Zelenskyy called it a mistake that Guterres planned to visit Russia prior to Ukraine.
"Why? To give over signals from Russia At Saturday's news conference, Zelenskyy stated: "What should we look for?" He said that there are no corpses on the Kutuzovsky Prospect, referring to one Moscow's main avenues.
Due to its position on the Sea of Azov, Mariupol has been at the center of intense fighting since the beginning of the war. Its capture would remove Ukraine from a crucial port and free up Russian troops to fight elsewhere. Moscow could also establish a land corridor to reach the Crimean Peninsula which it took from Ukraine in 2014.
Mariupol is home to more than 100,000 people, a drop from the prewar population of around 430,000. According to Ukrainian authorities, more than 20,000 civilians were killed. Satellite images from recent days showed mass graves in the towns west and east Mariupol.
Mykhailo Podolyak is a Ukrainian presidential advisor who called for a localized Easter truce. He called on Russia to allow civilians out of the steel plant, and suggested that talks be held to secure an exit for Ukrainian soldiers.
Podolyak claimed that the Russian military was attacking it with heavy bombs, artillery, and while accumulating equipment and forces for a direct attack.
Zelenskyy had earlier accused the Russians of war crimes, including the killing of civilians and the setting up of "filtration camps" near Mariupol to house people who are trying to flee the city.
He said that Ukrainians are often sent from there to Russia or areas under Russian occupation, sometimes as far as Siberia and the Far East. He said that many of them are children. These claims cannot be independently verified.
Zelenskyy stated that intercepted communications captured Russian troops discussing "how to conceal the traces their crimes in Mariupol". A Russian missile strike on Saturday at Odesa, a Black Sea port, claimed the life of a 3-month-old girl.
Russian forces attacked cities and towns across southern and eastern Ukraine on the eve Orthodox Easter. According to Ukrainian officials, the baby was one of eight people who were killed when Russia fired cruise missiles on Odesa.
UNIAN, the Ukrainian news agency, reported that the missile struck a residential area and also killed the infant's grandmother, Valeria Glodan. Zelenskyy said that he would find and punish those responsible.
"The war began when this baby was one months old," Zelenskyy stated. Can you see what's happening? "They are filthy, they have no other words."
Russia has reassembled troops that fought in the Donbas offensive. They include those who were in and around Kyiv before. Sunday's statement by the British Ministry of Defense stated that Ukrainian forces had repelled numerous attacks in the last week and "inflicted substantial cost to Russian forces."
In an intelligence update, the ministry stated that poor Russian morale and limited time to reconstitute and re-equip forces from previous offensives could hinder Russian combat effectiveness.
The spiritual leaders of , the world's Orthodox Christians, and Roman Catholics called for relief for Ukraine’s suffering population.
Ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew I, Istanbul, said that a "human tragedy was unfolding." Bartholomew was considered the first Eastern Orthodox patriarch to be equal to him. He cited in particular the "thousands of civilians surrounded in Mariupol", including the elderly and the injured, as well as many children.
Pope Francis spoke from a window overlooking St. Peter's Square and reiterated his call for an Easter truce. He called it "a minimal, tangible sign of peace"
Francis stated, "The attacks must stop, to respond to suffering of the exhausted populace," without naming the aggressor.