Ukraine will request more strong weapons from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin during their scheduled visit to Kyiv on Sunday, as part of efforts to fortify the country’s defenses against a Russian invasion.
In an emotional address at Kyiv’s 1,000-year-old Saint Sophia Cathedral to honor Orthodox Easter, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy declared his country would overcome “difficult times.” The religious celebrations were overshadowed by violence in the east.
Blinken and Austin’s travel, confirmed previously by Zelenskyy, would be the highest-level visit to Ukraine by US officials since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the country’s invasion two months ago.
The White House has not confirmed Blinken and Austin’s visit. The State Department and the Pentagon did not respond to requests for comment.
“We are inspired by the resilience of Orthodox Christians in Ukraine in the face of President Putin’s brutal war of aggression,” Blinken said on Twitter. “We are continuing to support them and, today, we wish them and all others celebrating Easter hope and a swift return to peace.” After the Ukrainian defense forced a Russian retreat from around Kyiv, Moscow’s assault is now focused on the eastern Donbas region and the south of the country. With a semblance of normal life returning to the capital, several countries have reopened embassies in recent days, and some residents who fled the fighting returned for Easter. Pope Francis called for an Easter truce: “Stop the attacks to help the exhausted population. Stop,” he said.
Ukrainian refugees swarmed churches around Central Europe.
The US and its NATO partners have demonstrated a growing willingness to supply heavier equipment and more modern weapon systems. Britain has offered to send military vehicles and is considering sending tanks to Poland to free up Warsaw’s Russian-designed T-72s for Ukraine.
Following phone talks with Zelenskyy, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan stated that Ankara was willing to assist in negotiations with Russia. Zelenskyy stated that he addressed with Erdogan the need for a quick evacuation of people from Mariupol, the location of the conflict’s worst combat.