A “strong” Ukrainian resistance in the eastern Donbas region has repelled multiple Russian attempts to advance, officials say.
The UK’s Ministry of Defence said in an intelligence update that Ukraine “has repelled numerous Russian assaults along the line of contact in the Donbas this week” as Vladimir Putin’s invasion is refocused in the south and east of the country.
It added: “Despite Russia making some territorial gains, Ukrainian resistance has been strong across all axes and inflicted significant cost on Russian forces.
“Poor Russian morale and limited time to reconstitute, re-equip and reorganise forces from prior offensives are likely hindering Russian combat effectiveness.”
It comes after at least eight civilians including a baby were killed in Odesa as Russian shelling hit a residential building.
Referring to the incident, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said: “Among those killed was a three-month-old baby girl. How did she threaten Russia? It seems that killing children is just a new national ideal of the Russian Federation.
“They are just b******s… I don’t have any other words for it, just b******s.”
He added: “What they have already done is definitely sufficient for the world to eventually recognize the Russian state as a sponsor of terrorism and the Russian army as a terrorist organization.”
The leader also revealed that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary for Defence Lloyd Austin are set to visit Kyiv on Sunday – marking the highest-level trip by US officials since the war began two months ago.
The White House did not confirm any travel plans for Blinken and Austin, however. The State Department and Pentagon declined comment.
“Tomorrow we will discuss this exact list of weapons that are essential for us and the pace of deliveries,” Zelensky told a Saturday evening news conference in an underground metro station.
“We would like to have… powerful heavy weapons. As soon as we have (more weapons), as soon as there are enough of them, believe me, we will immediately retake this or that territory, which is temporarily occupied.”
He added of the visit: “I believe that we will be able to get agreements from the United States or part of that package on arming Ukraine which we agreed on earlier. Besides, we have strategic questions about security guarantees, which it is time to discuss in detail, because the United States will be one of those leaders of security countries for our state.”
Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai noted that fighting was continuing on the Orthodox Easter holiday.
“Usually we would come to our churches with Easter baskets. But now this is impossible,” Gaidai posted on his Telegram channel. “Seven churches in the Luhansk region have been mutilated by Russian artillery.”
Additional reporting by agencies