he US has announced fresh military aid and diplomatic support for Ukraine as Russia continues its offensive in the Donbas region.
It comes after US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin met with President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Sunday to demonstrate Washington’s commitment to Ukraine’s defence against Russian aggression.
Mr Blinken said the US would provide an extra £234 million in foreign military financing and had approved a £129 million sale of ammunition.
They also said President Biden would soon announce his nominee to be ambassador to Ukraine and that American diplomats who left Ukraine before the war would start returning to the country this coming week. The US Embassy in Kyiv will remain closed for now.
Speaking to broadcasters on Monday, Mr Blinken said Moscow was failing in its war aims and a “sovereign, independent Ukraine” would be around “a lot longer than Russia’s Putin is on the scene”.
“When it comes to Russia’s war aims, Russia is failing, Ukraine is succeeding,” Mr Blinken said.
“Russia has sought as its principal aim to totally subjugate Ukraine, to take away its sovereignty, to take away its independence. That has failed.”
He added that Mr Zelensky had thanked the Biden administration for its generosity in supporting Ukraine after urging western leaders to go further in providing military aid.
Before the visit, Ukrainian officials drew up a list of weapons urgently needed from the United States, such as anti-missile systems, anti-aircraft systems, armoured vehicles and tanks, Mr Zelensky’s aide Igor Zhovkva told NBC News on Sunday.
The new financing means the US has now provided Ukraine with £2.9bn of security assistance since the beginning of the invasion on February 24.
Last Thursday, Mr Biden said he would provide Ukraine with a new £627 million package of military aid to Ukraine that would include heavy artillery and drones.
In an update on Monday morning, the UK Ministry of Defence said the Russian army had made minor advances in some areas of the Donbas since launching the new offensive earlier this month. Russia has failed to capture any major Ukrainian cities since launching its invasion.
“Without sufficient logistical and combat support enablers in place, Russia has yet to achieve a significant breakthrough,” they added.
Mr Zelensky addressed the Ukrainian people at Kyiv’s 1,000-year-old Saint Sophia Cathedral to mark the Orthodox Easter, which was overshadowed by fighting in the eastern Donbas region.
Some 320 kilometres southeast of Kyiv, Russian missile strikes on an oil refinery and power plant in Kremenchuk, killing one person and wounding seven, the governor of the Poltava region said.
Fighting continued in the besieged southern city of Mariupol, where Russian forces on Sunday attempted to storm the Azovstal steel plant. Around 1,000 civilians and Ukrainian military personnel are trapped inside the site, now the only remaining stronghold in the city.
Serhiy Volyna, commander of Ukraine’s 36th Marine brigade forces in Mariupol, said Russia was hitting the plant with air and artillery bombardments.
“We are taking casualties, the situation is critical… we have very many wounded men, (some) are dying … the situation is rapidly worsening,” Mr Volyna said.
Ukraine estimates that tens of thousands of civilians have been killed in the city following indiscriminate Russian artillery strikes.