KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Top U.S. officials have promised Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hundreds of millions of dollars in new aid during the highest-level U.S. visit to Ukraine since the Russian invasion began two months ago. earlier, while Britain said on Monday that Moscow had yet to achieve a significant breakthrough in its offensive in the country’s eastern industrial heartland.
In meetings with Zelenskyy in Kyiv, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the United States had approved a $165 million munitions sale for the war effort of Ukraine, as well as over $300 million in foreign military funding.
The pledges came on Sunday, the 60th day since the start of the invasion, as Ukraine pressed the West for more powerful weapons against Russia’s campaign in the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine, where forces from Moscow sought to dislodge the last Ukrainian troops in the devastated port of Mariupol.
The British Ministry of Defense said on Monday that Ukrainian troops holed up in a steelworks in the strategic town were pinning down Russian forces and preventing them from being added to the offensive elsewhere in Donbass.
“Many Russian units remain fixed in the city and cannot be redeployed,” the ministry said in a statement posted on Twitter. “Ukraine’s defense of Mariupol has also exhausted many Russian units and reduced their combat effectiveness.”
The ministry added that, so far, Russia has made only “minor progress in some areas since focusing on the full occupation of Donbass.”
“Without sufficient logistical and combat support assets in place, Russia has yet to achieve a significant breakthrough,” the ministry said.
On the diplomatic level, the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, was to go to Turkey on Monday, then to Moscow and kyiv. Zelenskyy said it was a mistake for Guterres to travel to Russia before Ukraine.
“Why? Transmit signals from Russia? What should we be looking for?” Zelenskyy said on Saturday. “There are no corpses strewn on Kutuzovsky Prospect,” he said, referring to the one of the main avenues of Moscow.
In a surge of support for Ukraine, French President Emmanuel Macron comfortably won a second term on Sunday over far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who had pledged to dilute France’s ties with the Union. Europe and NATO. Le Pen had also spoken out against EU sanctions on Russian energy and had come under scrutiny during the campaign because of his previous friendship with the Kremlin.
Macron’s victory was hailed by France’s EU allies as a reassuring sign of stability and continued support for Ukraine. France has played a leading role in international efforts to sanction Russia and provides weapons systems to Ukraine.
“We have a lot to do and the war in Ukraine reminds us that we are going through tragic times when France must make its voice heard,” Macron told a cheering crowd in his victory speech.
Zelenskyy’s meeting with US officials, his first face-to-face with a senior US official since a Feb. 19 meeting in Munich with Vice President Kamala Harris, came as Ukrainians and Russians celebrated Easter orthodox. Speaking from the old Saint Sophia Cathedral in kyiv, Zelenskyy, who is Jewish, stressed his importance to a nation ravaged by nearly two months of war.
“Today’s big holiday gives us great hope and unshakable faith that light will overcome darkness, good will overcome evil, life will overcome death, and thus Ukraine will surely win!” he said.
In northern Ukraine, on the Russian side of the border, a fire broke out early Monday at an oil depot, but no immediate cause was given for the fire in the oil storage tanks.
NASA satellites tracking the fires showed something burning at coordinates matching a Rosneft facility about 110 kilometers (70 miles) north of the Ukrainian border. Moscow has previously accused Ukraine of attacking the Russian region of Bryansk, which borders Ukraine.
Since failing to capture kyiv, the Russians have sought to take full control of Donbass, the industrial heartland of the east, where Moscow-backed separatists controlled some territory before the war.
For the Donbass offensive, Russia gathered troops who fought around kyiv and in northern Ukraine. The UK Ministry of Defense said Ukrainian forces repelled numerous assaults last week and “inflicted significant costs on Russian forces”.
South of the Donbass, in the strategic port city of Mariupol, a small pocket of Ukrainian troops continues to stand up to Russian forces in the Azovstal Steelworks, a sprawling installation on the waterfront.
Mariupol has endured heavy fighting since the start of the war due to its location on the Sea of Azov. Its capture would deprive Ukraine of a vital port, free up Russian troops to fight elsewhere and allow Moscow to establish a land corridor to the Crimean peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014.
Over the weekend, Russian forces launched new airstrikes on the steelworks in an attempt to dislodge the approximately 2,000 fighters inside. About 1,000 civilians are also sheltering in the building.
New Planet Labs PBC satellite images, taken on Sunday, show destroyed buildings across the steel mill and smoke rising from part of the facility. The roofs have gaping holes; a soccer field is cratered by incoming fire.
It is believed that more than 100,000 people – against a pre-war population of around 430,000 – remained in Mariupol with little food, water or heating. Ukrainian authorities estimate that more than 20,000 civilians were killed. Recent satellite images showed what appeared to be mass graves west and east of Mariupol.
Children in an underground bunker were seen receiving Easter gifts in a video released on Sunday by the far-right Azov Battalion, which is part of the Ukrainian forces at the Mariupol steelworks. The group’s deputy commander, Sviatoslav Palamar, said the video was shot at the factory.
A toddler is seen wearing homemade cellophane diapers and people are seen hanging laundry on makeshift hangers.
“Please help us,” a woman in the video said through tears, calling on world leaders. “We want to live in our city, in our country. We are tired of these bombardments, constant airstrikes on our lands. How long will this continue?
Associated Press journalists Yesica Fisch in Sloviansk, Ukraine, Mstyslav Chernov and Felipe Dana in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Yuras Karmanau and Jon Gambrell in Lviv, Cara Anna, Inna Varenytsia and Oleksandr Stashevskyi in Kviv and AP staff from around the world have contributed.
Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
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