(Bloomberg) — The U.S. pledged more than $700 million in financial assistance for Ukraine and its allies as Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Kyiv for the highest-level talks between the administration and President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in the country since Russia invaded.
Blinken said U.S. diplomats would return to Ukraine starting next week, while Austin promised that Washington would “continue to do everything possible” to make sure the nation is successful in its fight against invading Russian forces.
Air raid sirens were heard across most of Ukraine on Sunday evening and attacks continued on the Azovstal steel plant in the southeastern port city of Mariupol, where some 2,000 Ukrainian fighters are holding out.
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U.S. Authorizes $165 Million Ammunition Sale (8:50 a.m.)
Blinken and Austin announced a total of $713 million in foreign military financing for Ukraine and 15 allied and partner countries, with some $322 million earmarked for Kyiv. The U.S. also authorized a sale worth as much as $165 million to provide ammunition for Ukraine’s ex-Soviet weapons systems.
“When it comes to Russia’s war aims, Russia is failing, Ukraine is succeeding,” Blinken said at a news conference. The U.S. wants “to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine,” Austin said.
U.S. Embassy to Open in Coming Weeks, Blinken Says (8:45 a.m.)
“We will have American diplomats back in Ukraine starting next week,” Blinken told reporters. “They’ll then start the process of looking at how we actually reopen the embassy itself in Kyiv,” he added. “I think that will take place over a couple of weeks would be my expectation. We’re doing it deliberately, we’re doing it carefully, we’re doing it with the security of our personnel foremost in mind, but we’re doing it.”
Russia Reports Fire at Transneft Depot in Bryansk (8:40 a.m.)
A fire started overnight at the Transneft-Druzhba oil depot in the city of Bryansk, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the Ukrainian border, according to Alexander Bogomaz, the regional governor. Emergency services are working to extinguish the fire, he said on his Telegram channel. The cause of the blaze is unknown.
Transneft PJSC, which manages a network of pipelines, including the Druzhba link running to Europe, didn’t immediately respond to a request for a comment. Evacuation of nearby residents isn’t planned and no one was injured, Interfax reported earlier, citing the press office of the Emergency Situations Ministry. In Ukraine, an oil refinery in Lysychansk in the Luhansk region was shelled, according to the country’s Armed Forces General Staff.
U.S. Pledges ‘Everything Possible’ to Help Ukraine (8:30 a.m.)
Zelenskiy discussed matters including defense assistance, security guarantees, stepping up sanctions on Russia and further financial aid with Blinken and Austin in Kyiv, according to the president’s office.
Austin said he and counterparts from NATO allies will address the issue of what more can be done to provide “additional capability” to Ukraine when they meet in Germany on Tuesday. “You should know, and the people of Ukraine should know, that we will continue to do everything possible to ensure that you are successful,” he said in a video provided by Zelenskiy’s office.
Ukraine Apologizes to Japan Over Twitter Post (7:11 a.m.)
An official Ukrainian government Twitter account issued an apology after showing a picture of Japan’s wartime Emperor Hirohito alongside Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini in a social media video about the defeat of fascism.
The tweet had circulated widely over the weekend and prompted an official protest from Japan. It also threatened to alienate some conservatives from the Ukrainian cause in a country that has been strongly supportive of Zelenskiy since the Russian invasion began.
Blinken, Austin Meet Zelenskiy in Kyiv (5:55 a.m.)
The U.S. said it will start sending diplomats back to Ukraine and provide more military aid, as Blinken and Secretary Austin visited Kyiv on Sunday night.
American diplomats will return to Ukraine as early as this week, starting with day trips to the western city of Lviv and eventually resuming a presence in Kyiv, according to a senior State Department official.
On Monday morning in Washington, President Joe Biden plans to formally nominate Bridget Brink, now ambassador to Slovakia, as his next envoy in Ukraine, a State Department official said.
Air Raid Alarms Sound Across Ukraine (6:45 p.m.)
Air raid sirens were heard across much of Ukraine early Sunday evening, from Lviv in the far west to Odesa on the Black Sea to Kharkiv in the north, according to a national alert system on Telegram.
The sirens typically warn residents of the potential for Russian air strikes. Authorities had warned Ukrainians of the possibility of stepped up strikes over the Orthodox Easter weekend.
Shmyhal Hails ‘Symbol’ of U.S. Officials’ Visit (5:38 p.m.)
The visit of Blinken and Austin to Kyiv is a “very important political symbol,” Ukraine Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on Sunday on CBS.
Shmyhal said Ukraine is having “negotiations with the United States, with all of our partners,” on its proposal that Kyiv could use frozen Russian assets as part of its recovery funds.
This week U.N. Sec. Gen. Antonio Guterres is expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but, Ukrainian PM Shmyhal is “not sure” this is a diplomatic breakthrough. He thinks Russia is more interested in the “genocide of Ukrainians.”
Ukraine Aide Says ‘Not a Good Idea’ for UN Chief to Meet Putin (3:55 p.m.)
Igor Zhovkva, a senior aide to President Zelenskiy, said it was “not a good idea” for United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to meet Russia’s leader on Tuesday.
“We did not understand his intention to travel to Moscow and to talk to President Putin,” Zhovkva said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” adding that he doubted the talks would “end up with any result.”
Guterres will travel to Kyiv after the Putin meeting. On Saturday, Zelenskiy said Guterres should “visit our towns where people were tortured and killed, and only after that find time for those esteemed in Moscow.”
No Civilian Corridor Out of Mariupol, Official Says (3:59 p.m.)
Ukraine was unable to evacuate civilians from Mariupol on Sunday without a cease-fire guarantee from Russia, deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in televised remarks, adding, “We will continue trying tomorrow.”
Vereshchuk urged UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to demand in his planned meeting with Russian leaders on Tuesday that Moscow provide two evacuation corridors, one from the Azovstal steel plant and one from city of Mariupol itself.
Commander Says New Missile Can Carry Several Hypersonic Weapons (3:25 p.m.)
The Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile test-fired on Wednesday can carry several hypersonic weapons, a senior Russian military officer said, according to the Associated Press.
General Sergei Karakayev, commander of the Russian military’s Strategic Missile Forces, described the weapon’s capabilities in televised remarks on Sunday. Russian President Vladimir Putin praised the “unique weapon” on state TV as a way to “reliably guarantee Russia’s security against outside threats” and force Moscow’s foes to “think again.”
Zelenskiy Speaks with Erdogan Before Diplomacy Round-Robin (2:40 p.m.)
Zelenskiy spoke Sunday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, he said on Twitter. The evacuation of civilians from Mariupol was among the topics.
Turkey’s leader is set to host UN chief Antonio Guterres in Ankara on Monday. The UN chief meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Secretary Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Monday, and later with Zelenskiy in Kyiv.