Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says he will meet top US officials in Kyiv on Sunday, as heavy fighting continues in the east and south of the country over Ukraine’s Easter weekend.
The White House has not confirmed the visit, which Zelensky said Saturday would include US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
Meanwhile, many Ukrainians are attempting to celebrate one of their most important holidays of the year, Orthodox Easter, two months after the country was thrust into a devastating war
Here’s what you need to know.
Expected visit: Zelensky said he was “expecting specific things and specific weapons” from world leaders who come to the country, after announcing that he would meet Blinken and Austin in Kyiv 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.
Steel plant under attack: Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Russian forces were “continuously attacking” the encircled Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol on Easter Sunday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed earlier this week that Russia forces had achieved the “liberation” of Mariupol, but ordered his forces to stop short of taking the Azovstal plant, which is the last major bastion of Ukrainian defense in the city.
Podolyak said the Russian Federation “should think about the remnants of its reputation,” urging Russia to announce an Easter truce in Mariupol, open an evacuation corridor and agree on a “special round of negotiations” for exchanging military forces in the city.
Ukraine successfully “repelled” numerous Russian assaults in Donbas: Ukraine has “repelled numerous Russian assaults along the line of contact in the Donbas this week,” the UK Defense Ministry said in its latest intelligence update on Sunday.
“Despite Russia making some territorial gains, Ukrainian resistance has been strong across all axes and inflicted significant cost on Russian forces,” the assessment continued, without clarifying whether the resistance was being led by Ukrainian armed forces or civilian groups.
Moscow’s plan: Russia revealed 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 to 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 remain in the bombarded city, which the Russian government claims to control. Ukrainian fighters continue to hold out in the city’s massive Azovstal steelworks, where civilians have sheltered for weeks and supplies are running low.
Forced deportations: Ukraine officials claimed on Saturday that Russia was forcibly deporting some Mariupol citizens to Primorsky Krai in Russia’s Far East region, some 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.
Civilian conscription: Ukrainian intelligence has also accused Russia of planning to conscript Ukrainian civilians from the occupied regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, according to a Saturday UK military intelligence update. This would be in violation of international law, the UK Ministry of Defense statement said.