Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin were in Kyiv and holding the highest-level talks between U.S. officials and Volodymyr Zelenskiy in the country since Russia invaded, according to an adviser to the Ukrainian president.
The visit comes with the war entering a new phase as Russia shifts its forces to the east and south after failing to take Kyiv or topple Zelenskiy’s government in the early weeks of the conflict. Air raid sirens were heard across most of Ukraine on Sunday evening.
Attacks continued on the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol where some 2,000 Ukrainian fighters are holding on. United Nations chief Antonio Guterres will meet the leaders of Turkey, Russia and Ukraine in the coming days.
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Blinken, Austin Meet Zelenskiy, Adviser Says (1:13 a.m.)
A Zelenskiy adviser, Oleksiy Arestovych, told an interviewer on YouTube that appeared to stream live about 10 p.m. local time that Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin were meeting the Ukrainian president “right now” in the capital.
The U.S. Department of Defense declined to comment after the adviser spoke and the Department of State didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
Zelenskiy ahead of the visit praised accelerated weapons shipments that he said could help Ukraine step up its counteroffensive, but added the U.S. envoys “should not come here with empty hands.”
Air Raid Alarms Sound Across Ukraine (6:45 p.m.)
Air raid sirens were heard across much of Ukraine early Sunday evening, from Lviv in the far west to Odesa on the Black Sea to Kharkiv in the north, according to a national alert system on Telegram.
The sirens typically warn residents of the potential for Russian air strikes. Authorities have warned Ukrainians of the possibility of stepped up strikes over the Orthodox Easter weekend. Earlier, one person was killed and three injured by an artillery strike on the town of Chuhuiv, southeast of Kharkiv, according to the regional prosecutor’s office.
Shmyhal Hails ‘Symbol’ of U.S. Officials’ Visit (5:38 p.m.)
The expected visit to Kyiv of Antony Blinken and Lloyd Austin is a “very important political symbol,” Ukraine Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on Sunday on CBS.
Shmyhal said Ukraine is having “negotiations with the United States, with all of our partners,” on its proposal that Kyiv could use frozen Russian assets as part of its recovery funds.
Ukraine Aide Says ‘Not a Good Idea’ for UN Chief to Meet Putin (3:55 p.m.)
Igor Zhovkva, a senior aide to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said it was “not a good idea” for United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to meet Russia’s leader on Tuesday.
“We did not understand his intention to travel to Moscow and to talk to President Putin,” Zhovka said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” adding that he doubted the talks would “end up with any result.”
Guterres will travel to Kyiv after the Putin meeting. On Saturday, Zelensky said Guterres should “visit our towns where people were tortured and killed, and only after that find time for those esteemed in Moscow.”
No Civilian Corridor Out of Mariupol, Official Says (3:59 p.m.)
Ukraine was unable to evacuate civilians from Mariupol on Sunday without a cease-fire guarantee from Russia, deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in televised remarks, adding, “We will continue trying tomorrow.”
Vereshchuk urged UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to demand in his planned meeting with Russian leaders on Tuesday that Moscow provide two evacuation corridors, one from the Azovstal steel plant and one from city of Mariupol itself.
Commander Says New Missile Can Carry Several Hypersonic Weapons (3:25 p.m.)
The Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile test-fired on Wednesday can carry several hypersonic weapons, a senior Russian military officer said, according to the Associated Press.
General Sergei Karakayev, commander of the Russian military’s Strategic Missile Forces, described the weapon’s capabilities in televised remarks on Sunday. Russian President Vladimir Putin praised the “unique weapon” on state TV as a way to “reliably guarantee Russia’s security against outside threats” and force Moscow’s foes to “think again.”
Zelenskiy Speaks with Erdogan Before Diplomacy Round-Robin (2:40 p.m.)
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy spoke Sunday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, he said on Twitter. The evacuation of civilians from Mariupol was among the topics.
Turkey’s leader is set to host UN chief Antonio Guterres in Ankara on Monday. The UN chief meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Secretary Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Monday, and later with Zelenskiy in Kyiv.
Germany’s CDU Threatens to Hold Up Bundeswehr Funds (12:07 p.m.)
Germany’s opposition leader threatened to block plans to borrow 100 billion euros ($108 billion) to modernize the Bundeswehr. For the CDU to agree, Germany would have to permanently spend more than 2% of gross domestic product on defense and present repayment plan for the new debt, party leader Friedrich Merz told Bild am Sonntag.
According to the newspaper, the Chancellery in Berlin is considering asking parliament to approve the special fund for the army without an attached economic plan and a concrete list of planned arms purchases.
UN Demands Mariupol Cease-Fire; Zelenskiy Aide Calls for Talks (11:10 a.m.)
The United Nations crisis coordinator called for an “immediate stop” to fighting in Mariupol and the evacuation of trapped citizens. “They must be allowed to safely evacuate now, today. Tomorrow could be too late,” Amin Awad said, according to Agence France Press.
Kyiv has proposed three steps to end the stand-off in Mariupol, which Russia said Thursday it now has complete control over, apart from the Azovstal steelworks where Ukrainian fighters and civilians are sheltering.
Mykhailo Podolyak, chief negotiator with Russia, called for a “real” truce around the Orthodox Easter period; the immediate provisions of humanitarian corridors; and a special round of talks focused on troop swaps.
Swiss Veto German Request to Export Ammo to Ukraine, Newspaper Says (10:30 a.m.)
Neutral Switzerland has held up German arms deliveries to Ukraine by refusing to allow the re-export of certain Swiss-made ammunition, SonntagsZeitung reported.
The ammunition produced in Switzerland is used in Marder infantry fighting vehicles made by German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall, according to the newspaper.
North Korea Wants to Build on ‘Friendly Ties’ With Moscow (9:45 a.m.)
North Korea wants to build on its “friendly ties” with Moscow on the eve of the third anniversary of a summit between leader Kim Jong Un and President Vladimir Putin in Vladivostok, eastern Russia.
“Relations, even in the face of challenges and pressure of the U.S. and its vassal forces, continue to develop and strengthen,” Pyongyang’s foreign ministry said, according to the Yonhap News Agency.
UN Chief to Meet Erdogan Before Moscow, Kyiv Trip (9:05 a.m.)
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres will meet Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on Monday, Turkey’s foreign ministry said. Turkey has been a leading mediator during the two-month war.
Guterres then travels to Moscow, where he’ll meet President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and on to Kyiv for meetings with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Traveler Flow Between Poland, Ukraine Reversing (8:38 a.m.)
More travelers entered Ukraine from Poland on Saturday than departed, Polish border authorities said, continuing the recent trend of Ukrainians slowly returning after Russian forces pulled out of the north.
Some 15,100 people were cleared to enter Poland on the day while 21,100 left Poland for Ukraine. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 over 2.9 million people have entered Poland from Ukraine — a large proportion of the over 5 million who’ve left the country.
Ukraine Continues to Repel Russia Along Line of Contact (7:30 a.m.)
Russia has made some territorial gains, likely at “significant cost” to its troops, but numerous assaults along the line of contact in the Donbas this week have been repelled, the U.K. said in an intelligence update.
“Poor Russian morale and limited time to reconstitute, re-equip and reorganize forces from prior offensives are likely hindering Russian combat effectiveness,” the U.K. said.
Russia continues to attack the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, including with strikes from long-range aircraft. Satellite images in towns near Mariupol show what appear to be mass graves; city officials have estimated 10,000 or more may have died during the week’s long siege.
Germany to Borrow Extra 40 Billion Euros to Cushion War Blow (11:41 p.m.)
Germany will increase its borrowing plans this year to cushion the effect of the war in Ukraine, taking the total for net new debt to almost 140 billion euros, according to three people familiar with the matter.
The adjustment is needed to help finance measures to offset the economic impact of the war and surging energy prices on companies and consumers, said the people. The plan will be presented to the cabinet on Wednesday, and then onto parliament for approval.
Zelenskiy Says Weapons Flow May Bolster Counteroffensive (6:40 p.m.)
Zelenskiy said accelerated weapon supplies from the U.S. and European nations may enable Ukraine’s military to step its counteroffensive. “Particularly, we see a change in the speed of response from the U.S., and if this speed increases, we’ll be able to speed up de-occupation of our territory.”
The president said Ukraine’s military isn’t in a position to relieve forces and citizens trapped in the Azovstal factory in Mariupol, which is encircled by Russian forces.