Live updates | Zelenskyy: Kyiv meeting set with US officials
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke of the plans Saturday during a press conference. He did not immediately provide any further details about Lloyd Austin and Antony Blinken’s visit.
The White House declined to comment Saturday. The U.S. State Department declined to comment.
Zelenskyy has for weeks urged Western allies to send Ukraine more weapons to counter the Russian invasion.
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
— Ukrainian counterattacks slowing Russian offensive in the east
— Ukrainian village faces a churchless Easter
— Sanctions hit Russian economy, though Putin says otherwise
— Refugees in the Czech Republic make protective vests for volunteer fighters
— Possible mass graves near Mariupol shown in satellite images
— Follow all AP stories on Russia’s war on Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
WARSAW, Poland — Poland and Ukraine have signed an agreement increasing cooperation in the railway transport sector, aiming to help Ukraine maintain its trade exchange with foreign countries as the Russian invasion affects its ports.
Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and Poland’s premier, Mateusz Morawiecki, met on Saturday in Krakow, Poland.
Morawiecki said on Facebook that they both agreed that current sanctions on Russia are insufficient, which can be seen by the condition of the “Russian currency, bonds or inflation.” They appealed to the international community for tougher steps that would stop Russia’s aggression on Ukraine and for more military aid to help Ukraine.
Morawiecki drew special attention to the plight of civilians seeking protection in a steel plant in Mariupol, as he called for the assistance.
“In Mariupol, soldiers – or rather Russian criminals – want to make women starve to death. They wait until they run out water. This strategy is a terrible one. This is not war. This is genocide.”
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s top diplomat says Ankara has closed the Turkish airspace to Russian civilian and military flights between Russia and Syria.
Mevlut Cacusoglu stated to a group of Turkish journalists that Russia was allowed to use Turkish airspace to fly to Syria until April.
Haberturk television reported Saturday that Cavusoglu had asked Moscow to cease using the Turkish airspace for flights to Syria during a March visit. Moscow accepted the request.
Cavusoglu did not elaborate and it was not clear if the move aimed to prevent the possible transfer of Syrian fighters to Ukraine.
NATO-member Turkey has been trying to balance its close relations with Moscow and Kyiv and has positioned itself as a mediator between the two. While it has not joined international sanctions against Russia, it has closed the Black Sea straits to some Russian warships. The country hosted a meeting of the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers, as well as talks between their negotiating teams.
BERLIN — Germany’s former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has rejected criticism of his work as a lobbyist for Russian energy companies since leaving office in 2005, telling the New York Times: “I don’t do mea culpa.”
In an interview with the newspaper published Saturday, Schroeder also claims that his long-time friend President Vladimir Putin of Russia is interested in ending the war with Ukraine.
Schroeder reportedly blasted German officials who now criticize his efforts to procure Russian energy supplies for Germany, saying that “they all went along with it for the last 30 years.”
In the interview, he called the war in Ukraine “a mistake” and said atrocities need to be investigated, but added that he did not believe Putin himself ordered killings of civilians such as those allegedly committed by Russian troops in Bucha.
Schroeder, who met with Putin in Moscow last month on a private mission to broker peace with Ukraine, claimed the Russian president “is interested in ending the war.”
“But that’s not so easy. The New York Times quoted him as saying that there are “a few points that need clarification.”
LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office said he promised more defense weaponry is on the way to Ukraine while speaking with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy by phone on Saturday afternoon, the latest chat between the two leaders who talk to each other regularly. The British leader informed Zelenskyy that more weaponry from the United Kingdom, including drones, vehicles and anti-tank rockets, is being sent to him.
Johnson also confirmed that the U.K. will reopen its Embassy in Kyiv next Wednesday. He also updated Zelenskyy on the U.K.’s new sanctions against Russian military personnel and said that the British government was helping to gather evidence of war crimes. The two men also discussed the U.K.’s efforts to develop long-term security solutions and financial support for international partners. The Prime Minister concluded by reiterating Britain’s unwavering support of the peoples of Ukraine and committing to continue working with international partner to provide the assistance needed to help Ukraine defend itself.” Downing Street stated in a statement.
KYIV, Ukraine — An adviser to Ukraine’s president says five people including a three-month-old infant were killed in a missile attack in the Black Sea port city of Odesa. Andriy Yarmak, the Ukrainian presidential chief of staff, provided the information on Saturday.
An adviser of Ukraine’s interior minister stated that Russian forces had fired at least six cruise missiles on the city.
Anton Gerashchenko stated in a Telegram posting on Saturday that Ukrainian forces were capable of shooting down several missiles. However, at least one of them landed and exploded.
“Residents of the city heard explosions in different areas,” Gerashchenko wrote. “Residential buildings were hit.”
HELSINKI — Hundreds of protesters belonging to Latvia’s sizable Russian-speaking community have taken part in a large-scale demonstration in the Baltic nation’s capital, Riga, condemning the Kremlin regime and Moscow’s aggression on Ukraine.
Participants of Saturday’s rally entitled “The Russian Voice Against War” waved Ukrainian flags and posters with inscriptions such as “Stop the genocide in Ukraine” and “Complete Russian gas and oil embargo” at the central Freedom Monument, Latvia’s public broadcaster LSM reported.
Organizers said the protest aimed to demonstrate that many of Latvia’s Russian-speakers are not aligned with Russian President Vladimir Putin. In a statement, they called Moscow’s actions “criminal.”
Ethnic Russians make up around 25% of the 1.9 million population in Latvia, a former Soviet republic. Adding other national groups, like Belarusians and Ukrainians, the share of Russian-speakers is about 30% of the all citizens.
Earlier in the week, the Latvian Parliament unanimously declared that killing civilians in Ukraine occupied Russian forces (including Bucha, Irpin, and Mariupol) to be genocide.
KYIV, Ukraine — A top Ukrainian official has announced a country-wide curfew for the night of the Orthodox Easter.
Kyrylo Tyroshenko, deputy head Ukraine’s presidential offices, stated in a video address Saturday night that the curfew would be in effect from Saturday at 7 p.m. to Saturday at 5 a.m. Sunday.
In others regions, including Kyiv, Odesa, Chernihiv and Lviv, the curfew will run from 11 p.m. Saturday until 5 a.m. Sunday.
KYIV, Ukraine — An adviser to Ukraine’s presidential office says Russian forces are attacking a steel plant that is the last defense stronghold of Ukrainian forces in the strategic port city of Mariupol.
Oleksiy Arkestovich, an advisor to the head Ukraine’s presidential office said that Russian forces had resumed air strikes against Azovstal and were trying storm it.
“The enemy wants to suppress all resistance from the defenders in Mariupol’s Azovstal area,” Arestovich stated.
Arestovich’s statement came two days after Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reported to President Vladimir Putin that the whole of Mariupol, with the exception of Azovstal, had been “liberated” by the Russians. Putin instructed the Russian military not to storm the plant but to instead block it off in an apparent effort to suppress any resistance.
Ukrainian officials have estimated that about 2,000 of their troops are inside the plant along with about 1,000 sheltering in the facility’s underground tunnels.
Arestovich says the Ukrainian fighters are still holding on despite the resumed attacks and are even trying to counter them.
LVIV, Ukraine — Lviv regional governor Maksym Kozytskyy has announced a curfew starting on Orthodox Easter night.
Citing “new intelligence,” Kozytskyy said the curfew would run from 11 p.m. Saturday to 5 a.m. Sunday, and then every day between those hours until further notice.
“Unfortunately, the enemy doesn’t have such a concept as a major religious holiday,” Kozytskyy wrote. “They are so beastly that they don’t understand what Easter is.”
Kozytskyy said the church leadership is in support of the decision and that all churches in the region will be postponing their Easter night services until the morning hours.
KYIV, Ukraine — A video released by the Azov regiment of Ukraine’s National Guard, part of a group currently holed up in the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, shows women and children sheltering underground. Some of them have been hiding underground for as long as two months.
” We want peaceful skies, and we want to inhale fresh air,” one woman said in the Saturday video. “You don’t know what it means to us to just eat and drink sweetened tea. For us it is already happiness.”
Another young girl in the video says she and her relatives left home on Feb. 27. They have not seen the sun or the sky since then. Sviatoslav Palamar, Azov’s deputy commander, told the AP that the video was shot on Thursday. The video’s contents could not be independently verified.
According to Ukrainian officials, some 1,000 civilians, including women and children, remain trapped at Azovstal together with the Ukrainian troops holed up there.
KYIV, Ukraine — Kharkiv regional governor Oleh Synehubov says two people were killed and 19 more wounded by Russian shelling.
Synehubov said on the messaging app Telegram on Saturday that over the past day Russian forces fired at the region’s civilian infrastructure 56 times.
Kharkiv, which is near the front lines, has faced repeated shelling from Russian forces.
KYIV, Ukraine — Efforts to evacuate civilians to safer areas will continue in Ukraine on Saturday, the country’s officials said.
Deputy Prime Minster Iryna Vereshchuk stated on Telegram that there will be another attempt at evacuating women, children, and the elderly from Mariupol, a strategic port city that has been under siege by Russian forces for several weeks and reduced to a smoke-filled rubble by constant bombardment. The Kremlin declared Mariupol “liberated” earlier this week, with the exception of the Azovstal Steel mill, which is the last remaining area of resistance where Ukrainian troops are still huddled up.
Vereshchuk said that “if everything goes according to plan,” the evacuation in Mariupol will begin at midday on Saturday. Many previous attempts at evacuation of civilians from the city failed.
The governor of eastern Luhansk, Serhiy Hadidai, stated on Telegram that an evacuation train would depart Saturday from Pokrovsk, the eastern city. Residents of the Donetsk, Luhansk, and Donbas regions of Ukraine will be able take the train at no cost.
It will take them to Chop, near Ukraine’s border to Slovakia and Hungary. Haidai said.
Russia has said that establishing full control over the Donbas, a large part of which has been in the hands of Russia-backed separatists since 2014, is currently one of the main goals of its operation in Ukraine.
KYIV, Ukraine — Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai says that two people were killed by Russian shelling in the city of Popasna.
Haidai said Saturday on the messaging app Telegram that residential buildings in the region were shelled 12 times the previous day, and Popasna “got the most” of it. In addition to street fighting continuing in the city for several more weeks, the Russian army continues firing at multistory residential and private homes. Yesterday, five enemy artillery strikes …. were repelled by local residents. Haidai said that not all of them survived. He also stated that some houses were destroyed in Lysychansk, Novodruzhesk, and other regions.
KYIV, Ukraine — The Ukraine military’s General Staff says that Russian forces continue their “offensive operations” in eastern Ukraine with the goal of defeating Ukrainian forces, establishing full control over the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and securing “a land route between these territories and the occupied Crimea.”
Ukrainian forces in the past 24 hours repelled eight Russian attacks in the two regions, destroying nine tanks, 18 armored units and 13 vehicles, a tanker and three artillery systems, the General Staff said on its Facebook page on Saturday morning. Russian forces continue to partially blockade and shell Kharkiv (Ukraine’s second-largest city) and are active in Izyum, according to an update.
Russian troops continue to blockade Ukrainian units in the Azovstal steelworks area, the last stronghold, and then “launch air strikes against the city, including with long-range aircraft,” the post stated. It also said that an engineering unit arrived in Mariupol to demine the port infrastructure.
KYIV, Ukraine — Another mass grave has been found outside Mariupol, the city council and an adviser to the mayor said Friday.
The city council posted a satellite photo provided by Planet Labs showing what it said was a mass grave 45 meters (147. 64 feet) by 25 meters (82. 02 feet) that could hold the bodies of at least 1,000 Mariupol residents. It said that the new mass grave was located outside the village Vynohradne (east of Mariupol).
Earlier this week, satellite photos from Maxar Technologies revealed what appeared to be rows upon rows of more than 200 freshly dug mass graves in the town of Manhush, located to the west of Mariupol.
The discovery of mass graves has led some to believe that the Russians are trying cover up the massacre of civilians in the area.
KYIV, Ukraine — At least three civilians died and seven more were injured in shelling attacks in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine on Friday, as Russian forces continue to roll into the country’s industrial east, the governor of the region said in a Telegram post.
Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko blamed the deaths of “three more peaceful residents” in a small town and two villages on Russian shelling.
In a separate Telegram post earlier, Kyrylenko said that as of Friday afternoon, Russians had opened fire at 20 settlements in the region and destroyed or damaged 34 civilian infrastructure facilities.
A Telegram post on Friday by the regional prosecutor in the northeastern area of Kharkiv stated that two bodies of charred residents were found near the city Izyum the same day. According to the post, Russian soldiers were accused of torturing and burning the bodies of residents.
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon says U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will convene a meeting next week in Germany of defense officials and military leaders from more than 20 countries to discuss Ukraine’s immediate and long-term defense needs.
The Pentagon press secretary, John Kirby, said Friday that about 40 nations, including NATO members, were invited and that responses are still arriving for the session to be held Tuesday at Ramstein air base. Although he did not name the countries that had agreed to attend, he said that more information will be available in the coming days.
The meeting takes place as Russia prepares for an expected major offensive in eastern Ukraine.
The agenda will include an update assessment of the Ukraine battlefield and discussion about efforts to maintain a steady flow weapons and military aid, Kirby stated. He said that the agenda will include consultations about Ukraine’s postwar defense needs, but it is unlikely to discuss changes in the U.S. military position in Europe.
The Russian Defense Ministry said Friday that one serviceman died, 27 more went missing and 396 were rescued after a fire on the flagship missile cruiser Moskva last week. The statement comes one week after the vessel was lost.
Shortly after the incident, the ministry said the entire crew of the ship, which was presumed by the media to be about 500 people, had been rescued. The ministry did not provide an explanation for contradicting reports.
Ukraine claimed it struck the cruiser with missile strikes.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s security chief said Friday that the main battles in the country are taking place in the Donbas, the industrial heartland in the east, with Russia deploying more and more troops every day.
Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, told The Associated Press that over 100,000 Russian troops are currently fighting in Ukraine, including mercenaries from Syria and Libya. Some of Russia’s elite military units left Mariupol, a strategically important port city in Ukraine, after being declared “liberated” on Thursday by the Kremlin. They are now moving to the east to take part in the fighting, Danilov stated.
Danilov stated that weapons were delivered by helicopter to Mariupol’s steel plant, the last stronghold for Ukrainian forces in the city, at night. He appealed to Ukraine’s Western partners for speedy weapons delivery to their country.
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