Ukraine’s president-elect, Volodymyr Zelensky is set to meet with Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The visit will come as the Trump administration continues its work building a closer relationship with Ukraine.
CHERNIHIV, Ukraine (Ukraine) – President Volodymyr Zelensky is set to meet with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in Ukraine on Sunday to discuss military cooperation as Russian troops prepare for an invasion in Ukraine’s east.
The meeting, which the US has not confirmed, is expected to be the highest-level visit by US officials to Ukraine since the crisis began, and it will take place as Orthodox Christians, Russia’s and Ukraine’s biggest religious group, celebrate Easter two months into the conflict.
During the Orthodox Holy Week, UN Secretary-General António Guterres requested a four-day cease-fire to enable for the evacuation of people from frontline areas and the delivery of humanitarian supplies.
On Saturday, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses a press conference at a Kyiv metro station.
GLEB GARANICH/REUTERS/GLEB GARANICH/REUTERS/GLEB GARANICH/REUTERS/
Moscow rejected the cease-fire plan, claiming it was a subterfuge to enable Ukraine’s troops to regroup. Dmitry Polyanskiy, Russia’s First Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, said last week that a cease-fire would allow Ukrainian troops time to acquire additional supplies of drones, anti-tank guided missiles, and man-portable air-defense systems.
Before flying to Kyiv, Mr. Guterres will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow this week. Mr. Zelensky chastised Mr. Guterres’ choice to visit Russia first during a news conference on Saturday. “There are no dead on the streets of Moscow because the fighting is in Ukraine,” he claimed.
Mr. Zelensky broadcast a video message from Kyiv’s Saint-Sophia Cathedral on the Telegram social-media platform on Easter Sunday, stating that Ukraine is praying to God for “great grace to fulfill our big hope — today is another magnificent day – the day when great peace will come to Ukraine.”
After Russian troops made swift early successes, the Ukraine conflict has devolved into a grinding battle, with Russia gaining incremental victories in the country’s south and east, where it is focusing its firepower after drawing back from Kyiv and other northern regions.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Sunday that it had destroyed a gunpowder and explosives plant in Pavlohrad, a city in the eastern Donbass region where Russian soldiers are focused their operation, as well as four weapons caches in the northern Kharkiv region.
On Sunday, an Orthodox priest blesses a Cossack’s Easter Basket at the entrance of a church in Sumi, Ukraine.
The Wall Street Journal’s Manu Brabo took this photo.
In Northeast Kharkiv, a window of a residential structure caught fire as a result of Russian bombardment.
Alex Chan Tsz Yuk/Zuma Press photo
On Sunday, Ukraine’s southern operations command said that its troops had retaken eight communities in Kherson’s southern area, the majority of which is seized by Russia. Ukrainian artillery repelled Russian attacks on the towns of Oleksandrivka, Tavri, and Mykolaivka, according to a statement.
Neither side could provide independent corroboration of these statements.
Russian authorities have warned that a vote on creating a “Kherson People’s Republic” following the lines of the Donetsk and Luhansk statelets in the east, which Moscow established in 2014, will be held in May. On the eve of the battle in February, Mr. Putin acknowledged the independence of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics.
Mr. Zelensky warned at a news conference on Saturday that if the referendum went through, or if Russia murdered any more of the unknown number of civilians and fighters holed up in a steel mill in the southern port city of Mariupol, no more talks with Moscow would be place.
The city has witnessed some of the war’s most intense combat. Mr. Zelensky claimed in his nightly message that fresh evidence is surfacing indicating Russian forces had murdered tens of thousands of Mariupol citizens since the invasion began, and that they are attempting to cover up “traces of their crimes.” He also accused Russia of deporting Ukrainians, especially children, to remote regions of the country.
Russia is bombing the Azovstal facility with artillery and warplanes, according to Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior advisor to Ukraine’s president, and massing personnel and equipment to attack Ukraine’s final redoubt in the city. He advocated for an Easter cease-fire, a humanitarian corridor for people, and military personnel exchange discussions.
On Saturday, people gathered beside their vehicles after arriving at an evacuation site for residents leaving Russian-controlled Mariupol and the nearby towns.
Getty Images/Christopher McGrath
On Saturday, Russian military vehicles march through an area of Mariupol held by Russian-backed separatist fighters.
Associated Press photo by Alexei Alexandrov
Last week, a senior Russian military commander said that Moscow aims to dominate all of southern Ukraine, from Mariupol in the east to Moldova’s Transnistria area, where Russian-speakers face persecution, according to him.
This would ensure a land passage to Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula taken by Russia in 2014, while also denying Ukraine access to the sea.
According to Odessa Mayor Gennadiy Trukhanov, two Russian missiles struck an unnamed military facility and two residential buildings in Odessa on Saturday, killing eight people, including a mother and child, in the bloodiest strike within the city since the conflict started.
Mr. Putin commended the Russian Orthodox Church for its aid to individuals in need of care and support “in our tough period” in an Easter statement uploaded to the Kremlin website on Sunday.
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