Senior Biden administration officials are scheduled to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday in the highest visit to Ukraine by a U.S. delegation since Russia began its invasion.
The trip by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was announced by Zelenskyy at a press conference on Saturday, but remains unconfirmed by US officials.
Zelenskyy did not give details of the meeting but said he expected “not just gifts or some kind of cake, we are expecting specific things and specific weapons.”
Ukraine’s president has for weeks urged Western leaders to commit more arms and military aid.
More Western officials have visited Zelenskyy since Russian forces withdrew from the capital kyiv.
The visit takes place on the same day as Orthodox Easter, in a country where around 78% of adults were Orthodox Christians in a 2015-16 Pew Research Center study. Russian adults were about 71% Orthodox Christians.
Ukrainian officials pointed to the brutality of Russian attacks on the eve of the holiday. At least six people were killed, including a baby, in a strike in Odessa on Saturday. “Nothing sacred,” said Andriy Yermak, an adviser to Zelenskyy.
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►British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office said it promised more defense weapons were on their way to Ukraine in a telephone interview with Zelenskyy on Saturday afternoon, the latest Western leader to be engaged to provide artillery to aid in the defense against Russian forces.
► A second mass grave has been discovered outside the beleaguered port city of Mariupol, its city council announced on Friday. A satellite photo from Planet Labs to Telegram showed what was described as a mass grave in the village of Vynohradne that measures at least about 147ft by 82ft and could contain the bodies of at least 1,000 Mariupol residents, reports said. said city officials.
►The head of Turkish diplomacy declares that Ankara has closed Turkish airspace to Russian civil and military flights between Russia and Syria.
Solemn Easter services in Ukraine
KYIV, Ukraine — The sun rose as Ukrainians celebrated Orthodox Easter in the capital, Kyiv, on Sunday with prayers for those fighting on the front lines and others trapped beyond them in places like Mariupol.
St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral in kyiv was surrounded by hundreds of worshipers with baskets to bless. Inside, a woman gripped a soldier’s arm, turning briefly to kiss his elbow. Other soldiers prayed, holding a handful of candles, then crossed themselves. An older woman slowly made her way through the crowd and the flickering candle stands. A young woman was holding daffodils.
Outside the cathedral, a soldier who only gave his first name, Mykhailo, used his helmet as an Easter basket. He said he didn’t have another.
“Hopefully I’ll just have to use the headset for that,” he said.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at a service elsewhere in Kyiv urged Ukrainians not to let anger over the war overwhelm them.
“We all think our sunrise is coming soon,” he said.
– Associated press
Ukrainian village of Lukashivka faces churchless Easter after Russian invasion
A single metal cross remains inside the church of broken bricks and blackened stones in Lukashivka, Ukraine. Russian soldiers used the shrine to store ammunition, residents said, and Ukrainian forces shelled the building to drive the Russians out.
There will be no Orthodox Easter service here on Sunday in this small village in northern Ukraine. One of the church’s golden domes has been torn off. His golden cross leans against an exterior wall.
“It’s really a shame,” said resident Valentina Ivanivna, 70, standing with her bicycle on Orthodox Good Friday as men dismantled nearby abandoned Russian military vehicles.
The church in Lukashivka, a village near the town of Chernihiv, survived World War II and the most austere years of the Soviet Union, a time when authorities stripped it of its religious icons, said inhabitants. This time, locals believe it will take years for the church to regain its former beauty.
Ukrainian officials: 6 dead in Russian strike on Black Sea port city of Odessa
At least six people were killed, including a 3-month-old baby, in a Russian strike in the Black Sea port city of Odessa, Ukrainian officials said on Saturday.
“The war started when this baby was 1 month old. Can you imagine what is happening? said President Volodymyr Zelensky. “They’re just bastards. … I have no other words for it, just bastards.
Russia’s cruise missile strikes at the region took place on the eve of Orthodox Easter.
“Nothing sacred,” Andriy Yermak from the president’s office said on Telegram.
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Russian forces attempt to storm Mariupol steel plant
Russian forces in Ukraine attempted on Saturday to storm a steelworks housing soldiers and civilians in the southern city of Mariupol as they attempted to crush the last corner of resistance in a place of symbolic and strategic value deep for Moscow, Ukrainian officials said.
The reported assault on the eve of Orthodox Easter came after the Kremlin claimed its army had seized the entire destroyed city except for the Azovstal factory.
The fate of the Ukrainians at the sprawling seaside steelworks was not immediately clear. Earlier on Saturday, a Ukrainian military unit released a video believed to have been taken two days earlier in which women and children locked underground, some for up to two months, said they yearned to see the sun.
“We want to see peaceful skies, we want to breathe fresh air,” one woman said in the video. “You just have no idea what it means to us to just eat, drink sweet tea. For us, that’s already happiness.
Contributor: The Associated Press
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