Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says he will meet with top US officials in Kiev on Sunday as fierce fighting continues in the eastern and southern parts of the country over Ukraine’s Easter weekend.
The White House has not confirmed the visit, which Zelensky said Saturday will include U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
Meanwhile, many Ukrainians are trying to celebrate one of their most important holidays of the year, Orthodox Easter, two months after the country was thrown into a devastating war
Here’s what you need to know.
Expected visit: Zelensky said he “expected specific things and specific weapons” from world leaders coming to the country after announcing he would meet Blinken and Austin in Kiev on Sunday.
The White House has declined to comment on the potential trip, which would be the first visit to Ukraine by top US officials since the war broke out.
Steelworks under attack: Ukrainian Presidential Adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Russian forces were “continuously attacking” the besieged Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol on Easter Sunday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed earlier this week that Russian forces had achieved the “liberation” of Mariupol, but ordered his forces to stop taking the Azovstal work, the last major bastion of Ukrainian defense in the city.
Podolyak said the Russian Federation “should think about the remnants of its reputation” and called on Russia to announce an Easter ceasefire in Mariupol, open an evacuation corridor and agree on a “special round of negotiations” for the exchange of military forces in the city.
Ukraine has successfully “repelled” several Russian attacks in the Donbas: Ukraine has “repelled several Russian attacks along the line of contact in the Donbas this week,” the British Ministry of Defense said in its latest intelligence update on Sunday.
“Despite the fact that Russia has achieved some territorial gains, Ukrainian resistance has been strong across all axes and inflicted significant costs on Russian forces,” the assessment continuedwithout clarifying whether the resistance was led by Ukrainian armed forces or civilian groups.
Moscow plan: Russia revealed that the goal of its invasion is to take “full control” of southern Ukraine as well as the eastern Donbas region and to establish a land corridor connecting Russia with Crimea, the peninsula it annexed in 2014.
Humanitarian crisis: An evacuation corridor from the besieged southern city of Mariupol was “thwarted” by Russian forces on Saturday, according to a Ukrainian official. Ukrainian officials have said more than 100,000 people are left in the bombed-out city that the Russian government claims to control. Ukrainian fighters continue to persevere in the city’s massive Azovstal steelworks, where civilians have been sheltered for weeks and supplies are running out.
Compulsory deportations: Ukrainian officials claimed on Saturday that Russia forcibly deported some Mariupol citizens to Primorsky Krai in Russia’s Far East region, about 8,000 kilometers (4,970 miles) from Ukraine. In early April, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereschuk estimated that some 45,000 Ukrainian citizens had been forcibly deported to Russia since the war began.
Civil conscription: The Ukrainian intelligence service has also accused Russia of planning to summon Ukrainian civilians from the occupied regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, according to a Saturday update from the British military intelligence service. This would be contrary to international law, the British Ministry of Defense said.