UKRAINE: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin travelled to Poland on Saturday then overland into Ukraine on Sunday, where they met President Volodomyr Zelenskiy and other top Ukrainian officials, a senior State Department official said.
Blinken and Austin used the first official US visit to Ukraine since Russia invaded two months ago to announce a gradual return of American diplomats to the country and the nomination of a new Ambassador, officials said.
The visit was designed to show Western support for Ukraine and the Cabinet secretaries also pledged new assistance worth US$713 million (S$980 million) for Zelenskiy’s Government and countries in the region, where Russia’s invasion has raised fears of further aggression by Moscow.
Blinken and Austin were expected to have met for about 90 minutes with President Zelenskiy, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov and other officials.
Zelenskyy’s meeting with U.S. officials took place as Ukrainians and Russians observed Orthodox Easter.
Meanwhile, Ukraine has invited Russia to talks near the Azovstal plant in Mariupol, where Ukrainian fighters and civilians are holding out in a city largely under Moscow’s control, Kyiv said on Sunday.
Talks near the sprawling steel works would provide a dramatic and symbolic backdrop because the site is the last stronghold of Ukrainian forces in the strategic port.
“We invited Russians to hold a special round of talks on the spot right next to the walls of Azovstal,” said Oleksiy Arestovych, an aide to President Volodymyr Zelensky.
– THE HINDUSTAN TIMES, THE STRAITS TIMES