Russia hits rail and fuel facilities in attacks deep in Ukraine – after US secretary of state meets Zelenskyy

Russia is failing in its war aims following the invasion of Ukraine, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said following a visit to the capital Kyiv.

Speaking at a news conference on the border with Poland after meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Mr Blinken added that a “sovereign, independent Ukraine” will be around “a lot longer than Russia’s Putin is on the scene”.

It comes after he pledged $322m (£251m) in new foreign military financing for Ukraine and confirmed that US diplomats will start returning to the country next week.

New Kremlin tactic to ‘hide’ war casualties from its citizens emerges – live updates

“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 said Russia “sought to assert the power of its military and its economy” but “we, of course, are seeing just the opposite: a military that is dramatically underperforming, an economy as a result of sanctions, as a result of a mass exodus from Russia, that is in shambles”.

He added that Russia has “sought to divide the West and NATO” but said the military alliance and its allies are more united than ever.

It was the first visit by a senior US official since Russia invaded Ukraine 61 days ago, with Mr Blinken joined by Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin.

Key developments:

Ukraine has proposed talks with Russia over the fate of civilians and troops who remain in Mariupol

No humanitarian routes were established out of Mariupol on Sunday – Ukrainian officials hope to try again on Monday

Boris Johnson described Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine as “nauseating” and “blatant aggression” during a call with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

An unspecified number of civilians were killed by Russian shelling in Ukraine’s Luhansk region on Sunday, local officials claim

The war in Ukraine is entering its third month with no end in sight – with many thousands of people killed, millions becoming refugees, and cities reduced to rubble

ukraine map
Image:The situation in Ukraine on day 61 of the war

Russian attacks continue in Ukraine, with five train stations shelled in the central and western parts of the country on Monday morning.

The head of Ukrainian Railways, Alexander Kamyshin, said the attacks all happened within the same hour and casualties were reported.

Mr Blinken praised the strength of Ukrainians in the face of Russia’s attempts to “brutalise” parts of the country.

“Ukrainians are standing up, they’re standing strong, and they’re doing that with the support that we are co-ordinating literally around the world,” he said.

He said the US had approved a $165m (£130m) sale of ammunition to Ukraine.

“They can win if they have the right equipment, the right support,” he said, adding that the US will do “everything we can” to ensure Ukraine receives it.

Asked about reports of weapons falling into the hands of Russian-backed forces in the eastern Donbas region, Mr Austin said it is “difficult” for the US to track the weapons they give Ukraine.

He said Ukrainians are “focused on this issue, and they know we are concerned about it”.

Emergency service workers rescue the residents from a damaged building after a missile strike in Odesa Oblast, Ukraine April 23, 2022. Pic: State Emergency Service Of Ukraine in Odesa Oblast
Image:This building was damaged after a missile strike in Odesa on Saturday. Pic: State Emergency Service Of Ukraine in Odesa Oblast

New ambassador unveiled

The new financing brings the total US security assistance to Ukraine since the invasion began to $3.7bn (£2.9bn).

The US State Department said new funding “will provide support for the capabilities Ukraine needs as Russia’s forces train their focus on the Donbas” and said the assistance will help Ukraine’s armed forces transition to more advanced weapons and air defence systems.

A further $400m (£312m) in new foreign military financing will also be shared among 15 other nations in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as the Balkans.

US President Joe Biden will also soon announce his nominee to be ambassador to Ukraine – Bridget Brink, a career foreign service officer.

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Zelenskyy speaks to media in metro station

Embassy staff to gradually return

In other developments, Ukraine’s foreign minister has been told that staff from the now-closed US embassy in Kyiv – who have relocated to Poland – are going to begin making day trips to the Ukrainian city of Lviv.

The US State Department has vowed to reopen the embassy there as soon as the situation allows.

“There’s no substitute for that face-to-face engagement, and of course there is a symbolism to being back in the country,” an official said.

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While the West has funnelled military equipment to Ukraine, Mr Zelenskyy has stressed repeatedly that his country needs more heavy weapons, including long-range air defence systems and warplanes.

Mr Austin said the “nature of the fight has evolved because the terrain they’re now focused on is a different type of terrain” and the US understands the need for long-range fires and tanks.

He said the US is “doing everything that we can to get him the types of support, the types of artillery and munitions that will be effective in this stage of the fight”.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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