As Russia’s war on Ukraine enters its third month, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will visit Kyiv. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy hailed accelerated weapons supplies that he said could help Ukraine step up its counteroffensive, and said the Americans “should not come here with empty hands.”
Air strikes continue on the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol where some 2,000 Ukrainian fighters are holding on. Russia said it struck a “large consignment” of foreign weapons in Odesa on the Black Sea coast. The missile attack killed eight people, including an infant, and wounded 18, Zelenskiy said.
Turkey closed its airspace to Russian jets flying to Syria, a significant shift in policy aimed at increasing the cost of the war in Ukraine for President Vladimir Putin. UN chief Antonio Guterres will meet with the leaders of Turkey, Russia and Ukraine in coming days.
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Zelenskiy Speaks with Erdogan Before Diplomacy Round-Robin (2:40 p.m.)
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy spoke Sunday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, he said on Twitter. An immediate solution to the standoff in Mariupol and evacuation of civilians was among the topics.
Turkey’s leader is set to host United Nations Secretary General 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.
Germany’s CDU Threatens to Hold Up Bundeswehr Funds (12:07 p.m.)
Germany’s opposition leader threatened to block plans to borrow 100 billion euros ($108 billion) to modernize the Bundeswehr. For the CDU to agree, Germany would have to permanently spend more than 2% of gross domestic product on defense and present repayment plan for the new debt, party leader Friedrich Merz told Bild am Sonntag.
According to the newspaper, the Chancellery in Berlin is considering asking parliament to approve the special fund for the army without an attached economic plan and a concrete list of planned arms purchases.
Separately, Bild am Sonntag reported that Germany will spend about 5 billion euros to buy 60 CH-47F Chinooks from Boeing Co. to replace some of its 50-year-old transport helicopters.
UN Demands Mariupol Ceasefire; Zelenskiy Aide Calls for Talks (11:10 a.m.)
The United Nations crisis coordinator called for an “immediate stop” to fighting in Mariupol and the evacuation of trapped citizens. “They must be allowed to safely evacuate now, today. Tomorrow could be too late,” Amin Awad said, according to Agence France Press.
Kyiv has proposed three steps to end the stand-off in Mariupol, which Russia said Thursday it now has complete control over, apart from the Azovstal steelworks where Ukrainian fighters and civilians are sheltering.
Mykhailo Podolyak, chief negotiator with Russia, called for a “real” truce around the Orthodox Easter period; the immediate provisions of humanitarian corridors; and a special round of talks focused on troop swaps.
Swiss Veto German Request to Export Ammo to Ukraine, Newspaper Says (10:30 a.m.)
Neutral Switzerland has held up German arms deliveries to Ukraine by refusing to allow the re-export of certain Swiss-made ammunition, SonntagsZeitung reported.
The ammunition produced in Switzerland is used in Marder infantry fighting vehicles made by German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall, according to the newspaper.
Rheinmetall has asked Germany’s government to approve the export of 100 Marder tanks to Ukraine, Welt am Sonntag reported on Friday. The company didn’t immediately respond a request for comment.
North Korea Wants to Build on ‘Friendly Ties’ With Moscow (9:45 a.m.)
North Korea wants to build on its “friendly ties” with Moscow on the eve of the third anniversary of a summit between leader Kim Jong Un and President Vladimir Putin in Vladivostok, eastern Russia.
“Relations, even in the face of challenges and pressure of the U.S. and its vassal forces, continue to develop and strengthen,” Pyongyang’s foreign ministry said, according to the Yonhap News Agency. Those ties “are contributing to ensuring peace and security in the region and to establishing the international order based on independence and justice.”
From Fields to Front Line for Ukraine’s Farmers (9:10 a.m.)
Ukraine is the world’s largest producer of sunflower oil and among the top six exporters of wheat, corn, chicken and even honey.
The money it earns from agriculture — $28 billion last year — is now more vital because of the war effort, and the produce more critical for a world where record prices are raising concerns about food security.
Many farmers have swapped their workwear for fatigues, for now. “Once a farmer always a farmer,” said Yaroslav Andrushko, the chief executive of a small agriculture company. “But circumstances required us to take up arms.”
UN Chief to Meet Erdogan Before Moscow, Kyiv Trip (9:05 a.m.)
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres will meet Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on Monday, Turkey’s foreign ministry said.
Guterres then travels to Moscow, where he’ll meet President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and on to Kyiv for meetings with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
The UN. chief last week asked for separate meetings with Putin and Zelenskiy to discuss “urgent steps” for peace. Turkey has been a leading mediator during the two-month war.
Traveler Flow Between Poland, Ukraine Reversing (8:38 a.m.)
More travelers entered Ukraine from Poland on Saturday than departed, Polish border authorities said, continuing the recent trend of Ukrainians slowly returning after Russian forces pulled out of the north.
Some 15,100 people were cleared to enter Poland on the day while 21,100 left Poland for Ukraine. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 over 2.9 million people have entered Poland from Ukraine — a large proportion of the over 5 million who’ve left the country.
Ukraine Continues to Repel Russia Along Line of Contact (7:30 a.m.)
Russia has made some territorial gains, likely at “significant cost” to its troops, but numerous assaults along the line of contact in the Donbas this week have been repelled, the U.K. said in an intelligence update.
“Poor Russian morale and limited time to reconstitute, re-equip and reorganize forces from prior offensives are likely hindering Russian combat effectiveness,” the U.K. said.
Russia continues to attack the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, including with strikes from long-range aircraft. Satellite images in towns near Mariupol show what appear to be mass graves; city officials have estimated 10,000 or more may have died during the week’s long siege.
Germany to Borrow Extra 40 Billion Euros to Cushion War Blow (11:41 p.m.)
Germany will increase its borrowing plans this year to cushion the effect of the war in Ukraine, taking the total for net new debt to almost 140 billion euros, according to three people familiar with the matter.
The adjustment is needed to help finance measures to offset the economic impact of the war and surging energy prices on companies and consumers, said the people. The plan will be presented to the cabinet on Wednesday, and then onto parliament for approval.
Turkey Shuts Airspace to Russian Planes Carrying Troops to Syria (11:05 p.m.)
Turkey’s move, which includes civilian flights carrying troops, is the first such airspace ban since Russia intervened in Syria’s civil war in 2015 in support of President Bashar al-Assad. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Putin of his decision in a phone call, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was cited as saying by state broadcaster TRT.
Most Russian flights to Syria pass though Turkish airspace, though exact numbers of troops or materiel isn’t publicly disclosed. The move also signals Turkey’s solidarity with fellow NATO members and adds to Turkish pressure on Russia to end the war in Ukraine.
Zelenskiy Says Austin, Blinken Will Visit (6:40 p.m.)
“We’ll be discussing the list of weapons we need and the pace of their delivery to Ukraine,” Zelenskiy said at a press conference in a Kyiv subway station. “I will emphasize again — the last week, the signals, the messages, the tone on weapon supplies — everything has improved.” Ukraine is waiting for the security situation to allow the U.S. president to visit, he said.
The U.S. National Security Council and the State Department did not immediately comment. The visits, if confirmed, would be the first by top American officials to Ukraine’s capital since the war began.
Zelenskiy Says Weapons Flow May Bolster Counteroffensive (6:40 p.m.)
Zelenskiy also said accelerated weapon supplies from the U.S. and European nations may enable Ukraine’s military to step its counteroffensive. “Particularly, we see a change in the speed of response from the U.S., and if this speed increases, we’ll be able to speed up de-occupation of our territory.”
The president said Ukraine’s military isn’t in a position to relieve forces and citizens trapped in the Azovstal factory in Mariupol, which is encircled by Russian forces.
Naftogaz CEO Says Some Gas Transit Via Ukraine at Risk (6:00 p.m.)
One-third of gas volumes shipped via Ukraine to Europe could be lost due to Russian forces in recently occupied territories, according to the head of state-owned Naftogaz Ukrainy.
Moscow’s troops are disrupting the operation of pumping stations, Chief Executive Officer Yuriy Vitrenko said on Twitter. Russia has continued to pay Kyiv to ship about a third of its supplies to Europe via Ukraine, despite the war.