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Blinken to visit Kyiv in highest level US official visit since war began, Zelensky says

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin will travel to Kyiv on Sunday, Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky announced.

Mr Blinken and Mr Austin will discuss the kinds of weapons that Ukraine needs to battle Russia’s renewed aggression in the east and south of the country, Mr Zelensky said at a news conference Saturday.

The visit will mark the highest level United States officials to visit since the Russian invasion began on 24 February.

Sunday’s meeting comes ahead of a major US-hosted summit in Germany on Tuesday to discuss Ukraine’s longer-term security.

Mr Austin invited 40 nations to the conference at an American base in Germany to discuss Ukraine’s ongoing defence needs. As of Friday, 20 countries had confirmed their attendance.

On Saturday, Russian artillery attacks on the port city of Odesa killed six people, including a 3-month-old baby, Ukrainian officials said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken
Secretary of State Antony Blinken

Russian forces in Mariupol tried to storm a steel plant housing soldiers and civilians while attempting to crush the last corner of resistance in the city, which holds deep strategic value to Moscow.

The intensifying attacks on the eve of Orthodox Easter came as Russia claimed it had taken control of several villages elsewhere in the eastern Donbas region.

While British officials said the Russians hadn’t gained significant new ground, Ukrainian officials announced a nationwide curfew ahead of Easter Sunday, a sign of the war’s disruption and threat to the entire country.

An advisor to Ukraine’s presidential office, Oleksiy Arestovich, said during a Saturday briefing that Russian forces had resumed air strikes on the Azovstal plant and were trying to storm it.

Associated Press contributed to this report

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