KYIV, April 25 (AP): Top American officials pledged Monday to help ensure Ukraine wins its fight against Russia following face-to-face talks with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, while Britain said Moscow has yet to achieve a significant breakthrough in its offensive in the eastern industrial heartland of the country.
In meetings with Zelenskyy, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the United States had approved a USD 165 million sale of ammunition for Ukraine’s war effort, along with more than USD 300 million in foreign military financing.
“The strategy that we’ve put in place — massive support for Ukraine, massive pressure against Russia, solidarity with more than 30 countries engaged in these efforts — is having real results,” Blinken told reporters in Poland the day after meeting with Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian officials.
“When it comes to Russia’s war aims, Russia is failing. Ukraine is succeeding. Russia has sought as its principal aim to totally subjugate Ukraine, to take away its sovereignty, to take away its independence. That has failed.”
For his part, Zelenskyy in the meeting said he was “very thankful” for the American aid and particularly praised President Joe Biden for his “personal support.”
“The priorities are weapons and support from the United States of America and our partners, European leaders, in terms of our army’s strength and support in certain areas,” the Ukrainian president said. “The second issue is the sanctions policy against the Russian Federation because of the full-scale invasion and all the terror they have committed in Ukraine.”
The three-hour meeting came Sunday, the 60th day since the start of the invasion, as Ukraine pressed the West for more powerful weapons against Russia’s campaign in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, where Moscow’s forces sought to dislodge the last Ukrainian troops in the battered port city of Mariupol.
Britain’s Ministry of Defense said Monday that Ukrainian troops holed up in a steel plant in the strategic city were tying down Russian forces, and keeping them from being added to the offensive elsewhere in the Donbas.
“Many Russian units remain fixed in the city and cannot be redeployed,” the ministry said in a statement posted on Twitter. “Ukraine’s defense of Mariupol has also exhausted many Russian units and reduced their combat effectiveness.”
The ministry added that, so far, Russia has only made “minor advances in some areas since shifting its focus to fully occupying the Donbas.”
“Without sufficient logistical and combat support enablers in place, Russia has yet to achieve a significant breakthrough,” the ministry said.
With Russia’s shift in focus, Austin said Ukraine’s military needs are changing, and Zelenskyy is now focused on more tanks, artillery and other munitions.
“The nature of the fight has evolved, because the terrain they’re now focused on is a different type of terrain, so they need long-range fires,” Austin said.
Asked about what the US sees as success, Austin said that “we want to see Ukraine remain a sovereign country, a democratic country able to protect its sovereign territory, we want to see Russia weakened to the point where it can’t do things like invade Ukraine.”
On the diplomatic front, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was scheduled to travel to Turkey on Monday and then Moscow and Kyiv. Zelenskyy said it was a mistake for Guterres to visit Russia before Ukraine.
“Why? To hand over signals from Russia? What should we look for?” Zelenskyy said Saturday. “There are no corpses scattered on the Kutuzovsky Prospect,” he said, referring to one of Moscow’s main avenues.
Blinken said he had spoken with Guterres on Friday ahead of the trip.
“Our expectation is that he’s going to carry a very strong and clear message to Vladimir Putin, which is the need to end this war now,” he said.
In a boost in support for Ukraine, French President Emmanuel Macron comfortably won a second term Sunday over far-right challenger Marine Le Pen, who had pledged to dilute France’s ties with the European Union and NATO. Le Pen had also spoken out against EU sanctions on Russian energy and had faced scrutiny during the campaign over her previous friendliness with the Kremlin.
Macron’s victory was hailed by France’s allies in the EU as a reassuring sign of stability and continued support for Ukraine. France has played a leading role in international efforts to punish Russia with sanctions and is supplying weapons systems to Ukraine.
“We have a lot to do and the war in Ukraine reminds us that we are going through tragic times where France must make its voice heard,” Macron told a cheering crowd in his victory speech.
Since failing to capture Kyiv, the Russians have aimed to gain full control over the Donbas, the eastern industrial heartland, where Moscow-backed separatists controlled some territory before the war.
For the Donbas offensive, Russia has reassembled troops who fought around Kyiv and in northern Ukraine. The British Ministry of Defense said Ukrainian forces had repelled numerous assaults in the past week and “inflicted significant cost on Russian forces.”