Wire Service
2 minute read
25 Apr 2022
6:43 am

Ukraine proposes talks with Russia near besieged Mariupol plant


US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky for the first time on Sunday

This handout video grab taken from a footage released by Mariupol City Council on 19 April 2022 shows clouds of smoke billowing above Azovstal steel plant and the destroyed gates of Azov Shipyard, as Russia continues its push to capture the besieged port city of Mariupol. Photo: Handout / Mariupol City Council / AFP

Ukraine has invited Russia to talks near the Azovstal plant in Mariupol, where Ukrainian fighters and civilians are holding out in a city largely under Moscow’s control, Kyiv said on Sunday.

Talks near the sprawling steel works would provide a dramatic and symbolic backdrop because the site is the last stronghold of Ukrainian forces in the strategic port.

“We invited Russians to hold a special round of talks on the spot right next to the walls of Azovstal,” said Oleksiy Arestovych, an aide to President Volodymyr Zelensky.

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Earlier in the day, Kyiv called for a truce in battered Mariupol for Orthodox Easter, celebrated in both Russia and Ukraine.

“Russia is continuously attacking the Mariupol Azovstal. The place where our civilians and military are located is shelled with heavy air bombs and artillery,” Zelensky advisor Mikhaylo Podolyak, said on Twitter. 

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The nationalist Azov regiment, at the forefront of the battles with Russian forces, has confirmed that civilians are also trapped in the plant. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his forces not to assault the plant this week, but to keep it under siege instead.

Zelensky meets Blinken

Meanwhile, Zelensky met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in Kyiv, his office said on Sunday.

It was the first meeting between Zelensky and US officials since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on February 24.

“Today the Ukrainian people are united and strong, and Ukraine-US friendship and partnership are stronger than ever!” Zelensky tweeted on Sunday.

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Arestovych, speaking during an interview on YouTube earlier on Sunday, confirmed that the meeting was ongoing. 

“Talking to the president. Maybe they can help,” he added.

Arestovych repeated Ukraine’s appeal for offensive weapons, “because as long as there are no ‘offensives’, there will be a new Bucha every day”, he added, referring to the town where UN officials said they had documented the unlawful killings of around 50 civilians.

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“They wouldn’t come here if they weren’t ready to give (weapons),” he said of the visiting US officials.

On Saturday, Zelensky said that he was grateful for the help Washington had provided to Ukraine thus far, even if he wanted heavier, more powerful weapons to use against the Russian forces.

During his YouTube interview, Arestovych said in the Black Sea port of Mariupol, where the remaining Ukrainian forces are surrounded, the defence was “on the brink of collapse”.