Live: Top US envoy and defence chief promise military aid, diplomatic push on visit to Kyiv

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin announced new military assistance for Ukraine and a renewed diplomatic push during a secrecy-shrouded trip to Kyiv on Sunday. Follow our live blog for all the latest developments. All times are in Paris time [GMT + 2].

7:41am: UK says Russia made minor advances in Ukraine after its shift to Donbas

Russia has made minor advances in some areas since shifting its focus to fully occupying the eastern Donbas region, the UK’s Ministry of Defence has tweeted. 

“Without sufficient logistical and combat support enablers in place, Russia has yet to achieve a significant breakthrough,” it said.

Ukraine’s defence of the southern city of Mariupol has also exhausted many Russian units and reduced their combat effectiveness, British military intelligence said.

6:41am: US aid to Ukraine and neighbours, diplomatic presence in Kyiv  

During their visit to Kyiv on Sunday – the highest-level US visit since the Russian invasion on February 24 – Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his advisers that the US would provide more than $300 million in foreign military financing and had approved a $165 million sale of ammunition.

Money will also go to Ukraine’s regional allies who need to resupply after sending weapons to their neighbour.

They also said US President Joe Biden would soon announce his nominee for ambassador to Ukraine and that US diplomats who left Ukraine before the war would start returning to the country this coming week. The US embassy in Kyiv will remain closed for the moment.

Blinken said Biden in the coming days planned to nominate the current US ambassador to Slovakia, Bridget Brink, as the new ambassador to Kyiv, a post that has been officially empty since 2019.

Though several European countries have already reopened their embassies in Kyiv, the return will be gradual for American diplomats, according to a State Department official.

“Since the start of hostilities, we’ve had a team across the border in Poland who’s been handling this work for us,” the official told reporters waiting for Blinken and Austin on the Polish side of the border.

“Starting this week, members of that team will be able to do day trips instead into Ukraine,” he said. “Ultimately, (they will) resume presence in Kyiv.”

April 25, 12:24am: Zelensky congratulates France’s Macron on reelection

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky congratulated French President Emmanuel Macron on his re-election, saying the French president was a “true friend”.

“Congratulations to the President and a true friend @EmmanuelMacron on the election victory,” Zelensky wrote in French on his Twitter account in the early hours on Monday.

“I wish Emmanuel Macron new successes for the benefit of the French people. I appreciate the support of France and I am convinced: We are stepping together to new common victories! To a strong and united Europe!”

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

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