Firefighters work to extinguish a fire on a warehouse amid Russian bombardments in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Saturday, April 23. (Felipe Dana/AP)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that he will be meeting with top US officials on Sunday in Kyiv, as heavy fighting continues in the east and south of the country over Ukraine’s Easter weekend.
The White House has yet to confirm the visit, which Zelensky said would include US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
As a new day breaks in the capital, here’s what you need to know.
Expected visit: Zelensky said he was “expecting specific things and specific weapons” from world leaders who visit the country, after announcing that he would meet with Blinken and Austin in Kyiv on Sunday. The potential visit would be the first from top US officials since the war broke out. The White House declined to comment on the potential trip.
Odesa toll: At least eight people are dead, including a three-month-old baby, following Russian missile strikes on the southwestern port city of Odesa, Zelensky said Saturday, condemning the attack which took place a day ahead of when many Ukrainians celebrate the Easter holiday.
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 still 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.
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. A British Ministry of Defense briefing on Saturday said Russian forces had made no major gains in the past 24 hours, in the face of Ukrainian counterattacks.
Forced deportations: Ukraine officials claimed on Saturday 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 some 45,000 Ukrainian citizens had been forcibly deported to Russia since the war began.
Forced 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.