U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin are to meet Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv on Sunday, the Ukrainian president said Saturday.
The U.S. top diplomat and Pentagon chief will hold talks with Zelenskyy and discuss what kinds of weapons are to be provided to Ukraine to confront the Russian offensive, the Ukrainian leader said during a press conference.
The visit was announced after President Joe Biden add an extra $800 million in military aid to Ukraine.
Some heavy artillery weapons—72 155mm Howitzers and 144,000 rounds of ammunition—were listed in the package disclosed by Biden on Thursday along with 72 tactical vehicles to tow 155mm Howitzers, over 122 Phoenix Ghost Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems, and other field equipment and spare parts.
The United States has provided approximately $3.4 billion of security assistance in total to Ukraine since the beginning of Russia's invasion on Feb. 24.
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, which the Kremlin calls “a special military operation.”
The United Nations said that as of April 22, 2,435 civilians had been killed and 5,381 injured in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion, and almost 5.2 million people had fled the country.
After a botched effort to take control of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, Russian forces recently shifted focus to the south and east of Ukraine where the separatist or disputed territories are located. The Kremlin is apparently intending to occupy the corridor connecting Crimea and Donbass, with Mariupol being a key city along the corridor.
Moscow claimed that Mariupol has been taken by Russian armed forces.
“The city has been taken definitively and completely. … The strategically important administration building of the Azovstal plant has been taken under control, and all adjacent territory has been cleared,” Ramzan Kadyrov, head of the Chechen Republic said on his Telegram channel.
Some so-called Ukrainian nationalists are still blocked “under a thick layer of concrete and steel inside the plant,” he added.
However, the two sides have been at an impasse in ceasefire talks for weeks as Ukraine refused to accept the Kremlin's proposal.
Zelenskyy called on his Western allies to provide more "heavy weapons" to confront Russian forces as the war drags on and the ceasefire talks are deadlocked.
“We need heavy artillery, armored vehicles, air defense systems, and combat aircraft,” he said in a video message in early April. “Anything to repel Russian forces and stop their war crimes.”
“As many as possible” 155 mm artillery pieces and 152 mm artillery shells are included in the weapons list he requested.