The war in Ukraine continued on Sunday, with Russian air strikes on the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol. It appears as though there are some two thousand Ukrainian fighters are holding out in the steel plant. The city has otherwise been completely encircled by Russian troops. Moscow also says that Russian forces have hit a massive consignment of foreign weapons in the port city of Odessa on the Black Sea.
As the Russian incursion into Ukraine enters its third month, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to reporters that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are set to visit Kiev. Zelenskyy said that an increase in the supply of weapons from the United States and European countries, would help Ukraine step up its counter-offensive, openly telling the American delegation to not come to Ukraine empty-handed. Zelenskyy said that he planned to focus their talks on the list of weapons that Ukraine needs, as well as the pace of their delivery to Ukraine. He also said that Ukraine also expects American President Joe Biden to visit once the security situation allows for that. The U.S. National Security Council and State Department have not yet commented on Zelenskyy's claims. If confirmed, the visits to Kiev would be the first by top American officials since the beginning of the war.
According to German media, it appears as though Switzerland has held up German arms deliveries to Ukraine after allegedly refusing to allow the re-export of certain Swiss-made ammunition. The Swiss made ammunition is used in German Marder infantry fighting vehicles made by German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall. Rheinmetall has asked Berlin to approve the export of 100 Marder tanks to Ukraine. Switzerland has a long tradition of maintaining neutrality, one of the main principles of its foreign policy by which Switzerland will not get involved in armed or political conflicts between other states. The self-imposed policy is aimed at ensuring its external security and promoting peace.
Meanwhile, the United Nations is calling for an immediate ceasefire in Mariupol. UN crisis coordinator Amin Awad, said that an immediate end to fighting is needed to ensure the evacuation of citizens. United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres is scheduled to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on Monday. Guterres will then travel to Moscow, where he'll meet with President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and then on to Kiev where he will meet with President Zelenskyy. Zelenskyy has taken issue with his choice to meet with Putin first, however, the UN head said that he had asked for separate meetings with the two heads of state last week, adding that the focus of discussion will be on much needed steps to achieve peace.
Turkey, which has played a key role in mediating talks between the two sides since the beginning of the war, has also closed its air-space to Russian planes, military or civilian flights, transporting troops Syria. This is the first ban since the outbreak of violence in Syria in 2015. According to Turkish media reports, President Erdogan informed Putin of his decision via phone call.
According to Polish border authorities, the recent trend of Ukrainians slowly returning to their homes as Russian forces have withdrawn from northern Ukraine, continues. Polish data shows that more people entered Ukraine from Poland on Saturday than had entered Poland from Ukraine, with roughly fifteen thousand allowed entry into Poland, compared to some twenty-one thousand that departed Poland for Ukraine. Since the beginning of the Russia incursion into Ukraine on February 24, more than over 2.9 million people have entered Poland from Ukraine, more than half of the 5 million plus who've left the country.
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