By Reuters | April 24, 2022, at 11:40 p.m.
FILE PHOTO: A view shows damaged buildings, with the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works plant in the background, in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 19, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko – REUTERS
(Reuters) – Washington’s top diplomat and its defense secretary pledged additional military aid to Ukraine and a return of U.S. envoys to Kyiv as they made the first official U.S. visit since Russia invaded two months ago.
* Russian forces again attempted to storm the Azovstal steel plant, the main remaining Ukrainian stronghold in Mariupol, Ukrainian officials said, adding that more than 1,000 civilians are also sheltering there.
* Russia’s defence ministry said its high-precision missiles struck nine Ukrainian military targets, including four arms depots in the Kharkiv region, where artillery was stored. Russia forces have failed to capture any major city since they began their invasion on Feb. 24.
* Russia has deployed Iskander-M mobile battlefield missile launchers within 60 km (40 miles) of the Ukrainian border, Ukraine’s military said. Each of the system’s two ballistic missiles has a range of up to 500 km (300 miles) and can carry conventional or nuclear warheads.
* Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said “light would defeat darkness” as Ukrainians observed a bitterly emotional Orthodox Easter.
* Ukrainian refugees filled churches across central Europe for Orthodox Easter, giving thanks for escaping a Russian invasion and dreaming of a return home.
* Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual head of Eastern Orthodox Christians worldwide, called for the opening of humanitarian corridors in Ukraine where he said “an indescribable human tragedy is unfolding”.
* U.S. officials said Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin pledged new assistance worth $713 million for Zelenskiy’s government and other countries in the region.
* The trip by Blinken and Austin is the highest-level visit of its kind since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion.
* The European Union is preparing “smart sanctions” against Russian oil imports, possibly an oil embargo, the Times newspaper said https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/brussels-prepares-to-hit-russia-with-smart-sanctions-on-oil-imports-k3f230l3j on Monday, citing the European Commission’s executive vice president, Valdis Dombrovskis.
* Turkey is ready to give all possible assistance during negotiations between Ukraine and Russia, President Tayyip Erdogan told Zelenskiy in a telephone call.
* U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will visit Ankara before heading to Moscow next week to meet Putin and then to Ukraine for talks with Zelenskiy, the U.N. said.
* “We are inspired by the resilience of Orthodox Christians in Ukraine in the face of President Putin’s brutal war of aggression,” Blinken said on Twitter.
* “This great holiday gives us hope and an unwavering belief that light will defeat darkness, good will defeat evil, life will defeat death and therefore Ukraine is certain to triumph,” Zelenskiy told Ukrainians in an Easter message from Kyiv’s 1,000-year-old Saint Sophia Cathedral.
(Compiled by Clarence Fernandez; Editing by Robert Birsel)
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